UK: Religious leaders call on faith schools to accept all students

Ministers are being urged to stop faith schools in England selecting pupils and staff on the basis of their religion.

Accord, a new coalition of secular and religious figures, wants the government to stop state-funded schools engaging in what they say is "discrimination".

It argues that all children should have equal access to good local schools and that segregating them on religious grounds harms community cohesion.

The government argues faith schools can help boost standards in deprived areas.

There are about 6,850 faith schools in England out of a total of 21,000 schools. The vast majority of these are Roman Catholic or Church of England.

But they also include about 40 Jewish schools and a handful of Muslim, Sikh and Greek Orthodox schools.


In September 2007, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the government would open more faith schools where there was parental demand.

But the move has angered some teachers who complain of discriminatory employment practices.

The Accord coalition is made up of religious leaders, humanists and teachers who have come together to call for, not an end to, but a change to faith schools.


Faith schools can be very over-subscribed because they often do better than local authority-controlled state schools.

And many have claimed their ability to select pupils on the basis of their faith means they can engage in covert forms of academic selection.

Accord claims that forthcoming research shows the family wealth of pupils, rather than the religious ethos of the school leads to better than average grades.

One of the coalition's supporters, Reverend Iain McDonald, Minister of Southernhay United Reformed Church in Exeter, Devon said the present system "encouraged hypocrisy".

"There are those who attend church in order that their children qualify for admission to a particular school and never set foot in the church again after the children have been accepted."

General Secretary of Association of Teachers and Lecturers Dr Mary Bousted said: "All children - regardless of their religion, culture, and family income - should have equal access to the best possible education in a good local school.


Source: BBC (English)

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