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Media Watch - Faith Schools and Miracles

The Radio 4 Sunday programme has, as usual, featured some interesting items recently. On 5th May (at 29:55 on this recording) there was one about the government announcement that it was consulting on whether to lift current rules that mean faith schools can only offer up to 50 percent of their places to pupils on the basis of religious belief. Sir Edward Leigh MP, Conservative MP and former President of the Catholic Union, and Dr Ruth Wareham, Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at the University of Birmingham, discussed whether we’re likely to soon see more Catholic free schools being established, whether lifting the rules will increase divisions in society, and if high performing faith schools are the result of them being more socially selective.

Then on 19th May (at 1.05) there was a discussion of a report which claims that faith schools in England admit fewer children with special educational needs and disabilities than their non-faith counterparts. The author of the report, Dr Tammy Campbell, and Headteacher at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Jocelyn Baker were the guests. There was also an article on the report in The Guardian. The report itself is published in the Oxford Review of Education.

 In the same programme (at 34.32) there was an item about the new guidance issued by the Vatican on signs, wonders and miracles. Sister Dr Gemma Simmonds and the Bishop of Salford, Rt. Reverend John Arnold, discussed where the line should be drawn between “the truly mysterious” and “mere superstitious nonsense”! The presenter, Edward Stourton, put a question that had immediately arisen in my own mind: “Outsiders from the church might say that there’s a possible contradiction in all this in the sense that some of the things that the Church does ask us to believe, like the resurrection of Christ and transubstantiation, when the blood and the wine are said to turn into the body and blood of Christ, are judged by most secular scientific standards as pretty far out themselves.” The answer, as you might expect, was not very convincing. According to Sister Gemma, it’s all to do with whether the reported miracle is consistent with the teachings of Christ.

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