When our editor, Caspar Melville, and his old English teacher, Jim Mulligan, came up with a plan to speak to a group of comprehensive school pupils about their views on faith and religion, it sounded like a great idea. We're used to hearing what policy-makers and interest groups think is best for young people in terms of school and religion, but what about the youngsters themselves?
I didn't know what to expect from the final product – it's not an easy task speaking to a big group of opinionated teenagers for a couple of hours and writing it up into a finished article – but when it was handed to me for copy-editing, it didn't disappoint. Jim visited Haverstock School in north London (if you recognise the name, think "Miliband brothers"), where, after sending his own sons there, he has been a governor for the past five years, and sat down to talk about faith, religion, identity and ethics with 16 volunteers studying for A Levels or GCSEs in religious studies.
Haverstock is an entirely non-denominational state school (a Business and Enterprise College to be exact) with a hugely diverse student body – there are pupils from 70 ethnic backgrounds, 25 per cent of them coming from families of refugees or asylum seekers. I won't bother you with my scene setting much more – I will leave you to read the piece itself – except to say that in my view, this is the most heart-warming argument against faith schools you're likely to read this year. These 16 teenagers from a north London school beautifully illustrate why young people from different background should grow up and be educated alongside each other, and not be separated on the basis of their parents' religious beliefs.
(Of course, this ties in with the debate we've been hosting about whether humanists should take advantage of the system to establish a humanist school – don't forget to read that debate and vote in our poll.)