The Manchester Evening has a a related article today (Manchester Evening News, [print edition], First Wednesday edition, Wednesday March 15, 2006, page 5)
Hands up for the multi-faithed schools
Religious leaders across the country have backed calls for faith schools to accept a proportion of pupils with different beliefs.
The moves follow calls by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who has pointed to faith schools as a force for socuial good that teach tolerance and respect.
Currently faith schools - which make up one in three schools and receive around 85 per cent of their funds from the taxpayer - can set their own admissions policies.
Although they cannot refuse to admit those of other or no faiths if their are space places, over-subscribed schools can now insist on proof of baptism or regular attendance at a place of worship.
Now leading religious figures have backed the Archnishop of Canterbury in calling for a new dialogue on how and when children of different faiths should be intergrated in schools.
Jan Ainsworth, director of education for Manchester Diocese of the Church of England, says that although most successful C of E schools already admit children of different faith, she would like to "start a discussion" with other groups about promoting more open access across religions.
She said: "We want to built strong relationships across faiths and need to make sure children from diferent backgrounds get to each other.
"Parents from other faiths tend to like Christian schools because religion and faith are woven into the school. No one is trying to convince others to change their faith. Our view is that there should be a place for commiited Christians but also for those of other faiths."
Also backing calls for youngsters of different faiths to lean side by side, is Kalid Anis, of the Isalamic Society. He said:"I don't think it would be a bad idea at all if faith schools accepted pupils of other religions, perhaps up to a certain percentage.
"A lot of people bandy about the idea that faith schools are responsible for problems, but that is plainly ridiculous. If you look at the riots a few years ago in places like Oldham, if anything those people from faith schools would be the first to uphold the values of citizenship."
And Louis Rapaport, president of the Jews Represebtative Council of Greater Manchester, said: "In general as a community we are in favour of faith schools. That doesn't mean we don't se great advantages in integration.
"I personally would be in favour of bringing people together at secundary age. All my grandchildren have gone into the state system at secondary age, but fully confident in their Jewish faith."
Education Secreatry Ruth Kelly, who is MP for Bolton West, has praise faith schools for her "explicit commotment to promoting inclusion and tolerance".
Faith schools in Manchester have achieved excellent results. The King David School, a Jewish school in Crumpsall, is best performing state secondary in Manchester, with 98 per cent of students getting five or more GCSEs at grade C or above.
And Trinity CE High School is second (61 per sent), with Barlow Roman Catholic High School not far behind.
There are currently no state-funded Muslim schools, although there are Islamic schools in the independent sector.
As an aside: here, in my town, out of the four grammar schools two are (state funded) faith schools, a Roman Catholic and an Evangelical. Both are well reputated, for their results as well as for their integrational work. (Another, smaller school, is run be the town, the forth and smallest of the four is by an independent-alternative association.)