Monday, December 22, 2008

British faith school pupils 'outperforming others at every age'

Pupils in England's religious state schools scored significantly better examination results at seven, 11 and 16 than those in community schools, figures show. On average, 85 per cent of children at Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim schools left primary school with a decent grasp of the basics - compared to 79 per cent elsewhere. Muslim schools performed best overall, although they constitute only a fraction of the country's 7,000 faith schools.

Critics claim that higher scores are achieved because faith schools use admissions policies to cream off middle-class pupils. Last year, the Catholic Church reported a surge in late baptisms as parents attempted to boost their children's chances of getting into the much sought-after schools. And a recent report by the Runnymede Trust - a multi-cultural think-tank - said they should be stripped of their power to select along religious lines to prevent distortion.

But faith leaders insist schools do well because of their religious ethos and a focus on traditional discipline and teaching methods. Oona Stannard, director of the Catholic Education Service, said: "Our success comes from fulfilling our mission, which is so much more than what Ofsted or the Government says a school must do. When I was a teacher, I remembered that I was not just seeing a child, but was seeing God in that child, and that creates expectations in teachers. "We are charged with developing the whole child."

Faith schools currently make up a third of all state-funded schools in England. Some 4,657 are Anglican, 2,053 are Roman Catholic and 82 belong to other Christian denominations. Another 36 schools are Jewish, eight Muslim, two Sikh and one is Hindu. Most use religion - often gauged by attendance at weekly worship or references from local faith leaders - as a tiebreaker when over-subscribed.

An analysis of GCSE results from 2007 reveals pupils in these schools make more progress at every stage of the education system. Some 51 per cent of pupils in Church of England schools and 52 per cent in Catholic schools gained five or more good GCSEs, including the subjects of English and maths. Scores increased to 63 per cent in Muslim schools but soared to 77 per cent in Jewish secondaries. By comparison, only 43 per cent of pupils made the grade in England's non-religious schools last year.

Faith schools also outperformed the rest based on the Government's favoured "value-added" measure, which compares performance at 16 to results when pupils started secondary school at 11. Scores are also weighted to take account of the number of pupils speaking English and second language and those on free meals - ensuring schools with large numbers of middle-class children do not gain unfair advantage. On this measure, Muslim pupils made the most progress, followed by those at Jewish schools, other Christian schools, Catholic schools and Anglican schools. Again they outstripped secular schools. It suggests that claims faith schools are dominated by children from rich backgrounds may be exaggerated.

Last month, a report by the schools adjudicator found that two-thirds of schools controlling their own entrance policies - most of which are faith schools - failed to follow the code on admissions. A large number were found to have asked for extra information from applicants, prompting critics to accuse them of seeking to discover parents' incomes and marital statuses in order to "cream off" middle-class pupils who tend to do better academically.


Germany against Israel ban

Annette Schavan says Berlin's position against suggested embargo clear, adds maintaining scientific relations between counties can help create peaceful coexistence

German Education Minister Annette Schavan voiced her adamant objection to recent elements in the European academia calling to ban Israeli researchers for political reasons. Schavan, who will visit Israel later this week in order to mark a year of Israeli-German technological cooperation, told Yedioth Ahronoth that Germany's position on the matter is clear, and that Berlin only wishes to strengthen the ties between respective research teams.

Israel, she said, "is one of Germany's most valuable scientific partners. Maintaining scientific relations between Berlin and Jerusalem can help solve some of the biggest questions of our time, as well as find ways for forward peaceful coexistence. "The history of the relationship between Germany and Israel proves that science can help form a diplomacy of trust."

Schavan, who is a member of Germany's ruling party - the Christian Democratic Union, will stay in Israel for three days, during which she and Science, Culture and Sports Minister Raleb Majadele will also mark the 20th anniversary for the foundation of the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development. Over the years, the foundation has funded 970 joint research projects preformed by Israeli and German research team. The foundation's capital is equally donated by the German and Israeli governments and currently stands at 21million euros (about $267.5 million).


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