Papinian - I am totally happy to answer any questions you or any other parents - and all the parents on these threads so far have reiterated this - have regarding the operational practices of the school. If you would like to meet face to face for a coffee, I would be more than happy to. Boys wear skull caps only during prayers, be that Shabbat on a Friday (which lasts about 30 mins), or morning prayers (which last about 10 mins) - they are not 'clipped on' sometimes they fall off, nobody makes a massive deal of it!
Lunches require some level of kosher practice: no meat, no shellfish.
The rest of the time the children wear bog standard uniform - there is no other 'religious garb'!!
It just so happens that common Christian practice does not require the need for 'religious garb' or restricted eating practices, otherwise I am sure these would be required at Christian faith schools. In many Christian traditions the covering of the head is required, but adapted Christian practice does not require this now.
If you went into a mosque for a visit would you not cover your head as per their religious practice?
If my daughter went to a moderate Islamic faith school and was required to wear a head covering during some of the prayers but not for the rest of the day, I personally would not have a problem with that. Furthermore there are plenty of Muslims who do not wear a hijab as part of their daily dress.
I think what needs to be distinguished here is the difference between showing respect for some religious practices and what has been interpreted as a 'dress code' for certain religions? Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all Abrahamic religions and headcovering is an observation they all profess to having during religious worship.
I think it is also important to note a few other things:
there are parents at the school who are culturally Jewish or Israeli but not religiously, so there is not one denomination of Judaism that dominates this school, it is not traditionally orthodox in its religious practice
Our Lady Queen of Heaven does not operate a 50/50 basis as does this school with geographical location being the decider on the 50 open community places. It gets a vast proportion of its income from Wandsworth and yet has a hugely selective admission process.
At no point, have I suggested that other parents on this thread are prejudiced if you read my words correctly. You are interpreting what I have written - I only speak from my personal viewpoint and do not cast aspersions on others.
And here I have plagiarised Wikipedia - (a hugely useful source) for those other parents who are questioning why faith plays such an important part in our education system - I would imagine it is a matter of economics. The council does not fund everything a well resourced school might require. And we know that the perception from their end is, the less they have to spend on public services, the better.
And if you read the following I think we need to question how 'secular' our secular schools really are?
The Education Act 1944 introduced the requirement for daily prayers in all state-funded schools, but later acts changed this requirement to a daily "collective act of worship", the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 being the most recent. This also requires such acts of worship to be "wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character" unless the school is of another faith.
In January 2008, the Commons Children, Schools and Families Select Committee raised concerns about the government's plans for expanding faith schooling. The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Dr. Mary Bousted, said "Unless there are crucial changes in the way many faith schools run we fear divisions in society will be exacerbated. In our increasingly multi-faith and secular society it is hard to see why our taxes should be used to fund schools which discriminate against the majority of children and potential staff because they are not of the same faith".
Long standing opponents of faith schools include the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society. In 2008 the campaign group the Accord Coalition was founded to ensure state funded schools teach about the broad range of beliefs in society; do not discriminate on religious grounds and are made suitable for all children, regardless of their or their parents’ religious or non-religious beliefs. The campaign, which seeks to reform the faith school sector, brings together a range of groups and individuals, including educationalists, civil rights activists and both the religious and non-religious.
In June 2013 the Fair Admissions Campaign was officially launched, the campaign aims to abolish the selection of pupils based on their faith or that of their parents at state funded schools in England and Wales. The campaign has support from both religious and non-religious organizations at both the national and local level including the Accord Coalition, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, ICoCo Foundation, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.
In October 2013, the Theos Think Tank published a research study on faith schools, titled More than an Educated Guess: Assessing the evidence, which concluded that there is evidence for the "faith schools effect boosting academic performance but concludes that this may reflect admissions policies rather than the ethos of the school." John Pritchard, Chair of the Church of England's Education Board, welcomed the results of the study, stating that "I am pleased to see that this report recognises two very important facts. The first is that faith schools contribute successfully to community cohesion; they are culturally diverse and there is no evidence that there is any social division on racial or ethnic grounds. The second important fact acknowledged in the Theos report is that faith schools do not intentionally filter or skew admissions in a way which is designed to manipulate the system." The study also stated that much "of the debate [about faith schools] is by nature ideological, revolving around the relative rights and responsibilities of parents, schools and government in a liberal and plural society." The Bishop of Oxford concurred, stating that "children are being denied the chance to go to some of Britain’s best schools because antireligious campaigners have turned attempts to expand faith schools into an ideological battle-ground".