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PM sent manifesto for schools that 'perpetuate discrimination''

05 September 2014


Values: The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan

Values: The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan

THE next government should legislate to force state-funded faith schools to employ teachers of any religion or none, and admit at least half their pupils regardless of religious background, a statement sent to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education said this week.

Described as a "manifesto" for faith schools, the statement was drawn up by the Accord Coalition, a campaigning organisation that includes individuals and pressure groups from most Churches, from the Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh faiths, and from non-religious organisations.

A 50-per-cent limit on faith-based admissions would "ease the path towards the abolition of all religious discrimination in schools", it says.

Introducing the statement, which repeats Accord's long-held aims, the organiser, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, said that, while most religious leaders claimed that their schools were inclusive and tolerant, "in reality they perpetuate discrimination. . . Those signing the manifesto believe that discriminations are a religious affront, and are incompatible with religious teachings about equality, openness, and fairness".

A 50-per-cent limit on faith-based admissions would have little effect on Church of England schools, more than half of which are voluntary controlled, and have fully open admissions policies. The same is true of most C of E aided schools, which tend to be long-established schools serving local communities, although most Roman Catholic schools, and most minority-faith schools, strictly limit admissions from outside their own faith background.

All C of E schools, however, can seek to recruit Christians as school-leaders, and voluntary aided schools can seek them as other staff, too.

Responding to the Accord statement this week, the Church of England's chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said that the organisation was tackling the wrong issue. "In this country, there is a major crisis over school places which is squeezing low-income families out of the best schools, and, most importantly, there is a crisis of social justice.

"We are working hard to expand our provision and ensure that young people from all backgrounds have access to the best possible education."

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