School to Cheltenham MP: Apologise
A SCHOOL has asked for Cheltenham's MP to apologise after he suggested church-backed academies could make some non-religious "students feel like second-class citizens".
Speaking at a fringe event at the annual Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow Martin Horwood is reported to have questioned whether the Government should fund evangelical Christian schools.
Mr Horwood made reference to a "new church academy in the west of Cheltenham" where "£25 million of publicly-funded money has gone to create a school which is very good... but it is really very religious in a way I think it could make actually some students feel like second-class citizens within that school if they are not religious".
Peter Kingham, principal at All Saints' Academy, the school to which Mr Horwood is believed to have been referring, has spoken of his "dismay" at the "slur".
He said Mr Horwood has visited the academy on "several occasions" but never raised any concerns "like this".
He said: "I cannot see what evidence he has for such comments and it is a slur on our students and also the staff that work tirelessly to ensure that every student is a valued and respected member of the academy community whatever their individual faith perspective."
He said the school helps "students explore their spirituality and educate the whole person". He added the academy would "never, ever push Christianity" on students or "make any student feel like a second-class student", describing such a suggestion as "unfounded, untrue and unfair".
He said 90 per cent of the academy's students join the school with no link to the Anglican Diocese of Gloucester and Catholic Diocese of Clifton which sponsor the school.
Mr Kingham also pointed to the academy's Ofsted inspection in April 2013 which stated "the provision for students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding".
He added: "We are very disappointed as a school about Mr Horwood's comments and hope he will take the opportunity to apologise to the staff and students for the hurt he has caused.
Mr Horwood was unavailable to comment.