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Steiner in Suffolk?

SteinerSuccessive UK governments have been mucking about with our education system for decades, but it seems to have been almost completely dismantled the previous Labour government, which introduced specialist schools,and academies, and the current government. The comprehensive system may not have been popular with everyone, but it was possible to fix it without destroying it in the process. Nowadays, the emphasis is on parental choice, which usually means that those who shout loudest get the most and their choices aren’t necessarily informed.

The Conservative’s Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, who’s never been short of an opinion or invitations to appear on the telly, has a thing about “free schools”; schools free to more or less do what they like, at taxpayers’ expense. Toby Young, also famous for being famous, is their champion, which ought to be enough to make most people think twice, if not several times, about the soundness of the concept. The Free School movement originated in Sweden, where it hasn’t been the huge success that its enthusiasts would like us to think it is. The main beneficiaries seem to be children from more privileged backgrounds, who have all the advantages anyway. In the UK, the idea has been seized upon by religious organisations, so there’s concern about what children will be taught and about children being segregated by religion, at public expense.

Now a group of parents and teachers want to open a free school in Suffolk based on the principles of Rudolph Steiner, the Fullfledge Ecology School.

Evolution comic strip

Evolution comicBritish artist Darryl Cunningham is working on a book of Science Stories, due out next spring. It’ll include a comic strip explanation of evolution. Meanwhile, you can see the strip on his blog. Darryl says, “I’m sure there’ll be mistakes here, so do feel free to point them out, so that I can make the necessary changes. Thank you.”

On the subject of evolution, have you read our page about Creationism and Intelligent Design? Click here if you haven’t.

Humanist Week display in Ipswich Central Library

Library displayFor Humanist Week, this week, John Palmer and other committee members have created a display in Suffolk Central Library in Northgate Street, Ipswich. June 21st, the midsummer solstice, is World Humanist Day. The display lists the names of some leading humanists and shows some of the books they’ve written, to encourage library users to find out more. It also shows our two websites: www.suffolkhands.org.uk and www.agoodlifewithoutreligion.com.

Click here for a map to the library.

Grassroots Lib Dems warn government about faith groups and the Big Society

We’ve been concerned that the Conservatives’ ‘Big Society‘ idea offers a lot of encouragement for faith organisations to provide public services, yet faith-based welfare is fraught with problems. Now former MP Dr Evan Harris and grassroots Lib Dems are warning the Government that it shouldn’t press ahead with this policy without ensuring that strict rules are in place to prevent proselytising, among other things. Today’s Guardian quotes Harris as saying,

Any increased use of faith-based organisations delivering essential public services will need stricter safeguards to prevent discrimination against vulnerable and captive populations on the basis of religion or sexuality, as well as to prevent employees needing to pass ‘faith tests’.

The Lib Dems have made clear that religious organisations have as much right as anyone else to provide services, but until legal loop-holes are closed we expect the Government to ensure that contracts contain non-discrimination clauses.

Bill to curb sharia courts

Baroness CoxThe Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, has been introduced into the House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox (independent), with the support of the One Law for All campaign. The bill doesn’t aim to interfere with religious freedom, but does aim to stop the discrimination against women under the sharia law system. Read the National Secular Society’s report on their website. Currently, many British Muslim women suffer unequal access to divorce, domestic violence and general injustice, while their rights aren’t recognised by sharia courts. The bill makes it clear that British people, regardless of their religion, must accept British law, which always takes precedence over sharia law.

Website gremlins

Our website, powered by a free content management system called Drupal, has been updated recently. Since then we’ve noticed that some punctuation marks have been replaced by odd symbols. We’re fixing them when we can, but if you’d like to draw our attention to any, please click here to contact us. Thanks.