Theos’ response to the British Humanist Association’s paper, ‘Worse than an Educated Guess’
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1) That the report is not exhaustive, excluding some related issues.
2) That it does not include academies, foundation schools or free schools.
3) That it includes in the range of evidence summarised that which is put forward by groups who are not members of Accord, especially the Church of England and the Catholic Education Service, and that it misses a recent Fair Admissions Campaign project.
To respond to those in order:
1) The report, as it states in the introduction, was focused on a few key questions and did not set out to be exhaustive.
2) This report is a summary and analysis of existing evidence. The decision to exclude academies and free schools was taken, as stated, because no developed body of evidence exists in relation to them comparable to that around voluntary controlled and voluntary aided schools. The BHA themselves concede this. The report states that this area is expanding rapidly and hopes there will be enough research in the future.
3) One of the reasons we undertook this project was to provide a place where people could access research put forward by those on both sides of the debate. As is invariably the case, our study missed some research surveys, such as that of the Fair Admissions Campaign (of which BHA is a member) published this August, and also the polling by the Westminster Faith Debates, both of which were launched after the cut–off point necessary for production of the report. These omissions do not materially alter any of the conclusions drawn in the report, rather strengthening some of them.
Beyond these substantive points, the rest of the response is marked by repetition, point–scoring and ad hominem attacks. This is regrettable as it was precisely the kind of dialogue we have sought to avoid by publishing this report, which is at times critical of both parties in the debate. It does, however, underline our key point that some parties load this debate with more ideological weight than it can justly bear.
For the BHA to launch such a sustained attack on a report which seeks to fairly present research from across the spectrum and comes to some of the same conclusions as the BHA itself is proof of just how overheated this debate has become.
The BHA response can be read in full at humanism.org.