Has the time come to ban all religious worship and related activities from UK Schools?


The 1944 Education Act put into place a state primary and secondary school system with an Act of Parliament introduced by a Conservative Minister, RA Butler, but implemented by the subsequent Labour Government under Clement Attlee. It was an immense leap forward. Nevertheless, as Anthony J Sargeant points out, the system introduced was ‘of its time’ with unfortunate and unforeseen consequences following subsequent developments in UK society and its school system.

RA Butler

 R.A. Butler 1902-1982 (Conservative Minister of Education 1941-1945).The Times obituary called him “the creator of the modern educational system, the key-figure in the revival of post-war Conservatism, arguably the most successful chancellor since the war and unquestionably a Home Secretary of reforming zeal.”


The Attlee government faced immense austerity in the immediate years after World War Two. It is often forgotten that rationing of some basics such as meat continued well into the 1950s. Coal was in short supply, there were frequent power cuts, and the war effort had virtually bankrupted the country. Despite the difficulties Attlee’s government did create the NHS, and it did implement the re-organization of primary and secondary state funded education. But in relation to the latter what it could not afford to do was to take control of all education. This meant that Private schools for the rich (misleadingly called “Public” Schools) continued to exist alongside the State system (usually, and still today under the guise of “charitable” foundations with all the consequent tax benefits).

Even within the State funded system itself the Government could not afford to take over the many primary and secondary schools which belonged to the Churches, many of which had been established in the 19th Century when State provision was at best rudimentary. The majority of these schools were Church of England foundations with a somewhat smaller number of Roman Catholic Schools (though there were a few others, such as The Jewish Free Schools).

At the time it was recognised that such fragmentation of the school system was less than ideal. Nowhere was this more obvious than in Northern Ireland where the division of that Society between Protestant and Roman Catholics is still perpetuated within the School system.

Starting in the 1990s there has been an increasing fragmentation of the school system outside of Local Education Authority Control with so-called ‘Free’ Schools and sponsored ‘Academies’ as well as the twilight area of ‘home education’.

The 1944 Education Act created an unfortunate precedent in allowing Church Schools to be funded within the State system. But in the 1940s those schools were predominantly from two Christian denominations in a country and society based on Western Christian culture. As pointed out this was not a major problem except in Northern Ireland, where it remains divisive (and perhaps some mainland cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow. In relation to the latter think of the tribal divide between Celtic and Rangers supporters on a Saturday night in the 1960s).

Now, however, there are a multitude of religious groups in the UK, some more bizarre, antipathetic and repugnant to the host society than others: for example, those promoting Female Genital Mutilation of young girls.  Unfortunately, given the 1944 precedent, it now seems impossible in the fragmented school system  to refuse permission to any religious group, to set up schools promoting their beliefs. Christian Academies in the North East teaching  ‘Creationism’ in place of evolutionary theory is just one example, or the promotion of parallel systems of law with Sharia Courts.

Allowing Church Schools to continue within the State system after 1944 has proven to be an unforeseen Trojan Horse contributing to a ghetto-isation of children on the basis of their parents religious or cultural beliefs.

The consequence is further fracturing of the core values and moral code of UK society.  It may now be too late to undo the damage. The genie is out of the bottle. Nevertheless if one wants a society that holds together into the years ahead it desperately needs to avoid the creation of cultural and religious ghettos.

Something could be done to repair the damage created by the Trojan Horse as suggested below but it would require immense courage or foolhardiness of any politician to propose the following :

(1) Only authorise new state funded schools which do not include any religious worship or teaching in their activities.

(2) In relation to existing private fee-paying schools: Charitable status should be removed from all privately funded schools.

(3) Perhaps most importantly State funding should be progressively reduced from any school over a period of 5 years unless there is concomitant plan to remove religious content from the school’s activities such that no such content exists after that 5 year period. 


Anthony J Sargeant – 20th March 2018



Chinese embroidery from a Robe in the textile collection of Anthony J Sargeant



Bought by Tony Sargeant at a provincial auction in the UK this wonderful piece of antique Chinese embroidery in silk with metal thread for a summer robe has since been mounted and framed. There is a similar panel which is in the next post.

17th Century Oak Coffer



Nothing very exceptionable about this small coffer but for Anthony J Sargeant it has some sentimental value because it was the first piece of antique oak furniture that he ever bought before he went into business as an antique dealer. It has since moved with him on a number of occasions. It was bought in part because of the original and interesting carving to the front panel but mostly because of the original c. 1600 owners initials TS – (standing for Tony Sargeant in the 20th Century).

Antique Iranian Bronze



Anthony J Sargeant bought this piece at Sotheby’s Amsterdam in the 1990s. Although principally dealing in 16th/17th Century oak furniture and antique oriental rugs other complementary pieces were bought for decoration of the Gallery including this piece along with quite a lot of early Middle Eastern ceramics (12th- 13th Century).

Wonderful Art Nouveau silk and gold thread embroidery on silk for a banner of a church in Chelsea, London.



Anthony J Sargeant bought this silk and gold thread embroidered banner at auction about 10 years ago. Christ Church in Chelsea was remodelled in the late 19th Century and the banner must surely date from that time. It is pretty good condition apart from some minor damage to the corners where it has been hung.

Aldermaston March of CND Easter 1958 – Anthony J Sargeant marched and took this photograph of his friend Chris Slater holding the banner at the base of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar square — Anthony J Sargeant in 1966


It is a lifetime ago but in the 1950s there was a genuine fear that nuclear war could happen at any moment. Tony was just 14 at the time but he marched with his friend from school (Haberdashers’ Aske’s) Chris Slater. Chris is standing on the plinth at the base of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square holding the CND banner.

via Aldermaston March of CND Easter 1958 – Anthony J Sargeant marched and took this photograph of his friend Chris Slater holding the banner at the base of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar square — Anthony J Sargeant in 1966

Snow melting on the Shropshire Hills floods the Corve Valley



Anthony J Sargeant woke up this morning, 6th March 2018, to find the water meadows that surround the River Corve flooded by the snow melting on the Shropshire Hills. Tony took this photograph from a bedroom window of his Shropshire home looking east down the Valley.