A new report by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign, has issued a warning about how religious selection in faith school pupil admissions has become a major and worsening source of racial discrimination in Britain’s school system, and is undermining Government anti-extremism and social integration strategies.
- many of those who are being disadvantaged are of South Asian heritage and from a Muslim background, and that the school system is becoming systemically discriminatory on these grounds
- families losing out are those that would wish to send their child to the same school as other local families, but are being prevented from doing so
- the disadvantage is being entrenched, as successive generations from the same families lose out
- the discrimination is undermining the Government’s current Counter-Extremism Strategy of building ‘cohesive communities, tackling the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages’
- the disadvantage goes against the values of faith groups and their common desire to support those in society who are marginalised
- the problems are set to only worsen due to demographic change, unless reforms are made
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘At a time when the Government is seeking to prioritise policies to combat extremism and boost opportunity for social integration, it seems deeply irresponsible that many faith schools should be undermining these goals by entrenching segregation and privilege on racial grounds.
‘We call on the Secretary of State for Education and those that sponsor faith schools to urgently reform the faith school admissions system, so that it is better aligned to existing policies and is brought into line with the realities of operating in a diverse society. The current system is deeply flawed, and lets down religious values, community cohesion and many local families.’
The report, produced on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign, questions the legality of schools operating an oversubscription policy that indirectly discriminates against children on the grounds of race. It urges the Government to extend its current cap of 50% religious selection in admissions at newly created academy faith schools, to all existing state funded faith schools. As an immediate measure, it urges religious authorities that sponsor faith schools to adopt the proposal put forward by the 2001 Home Office sponsored ‘Cantle Report‘ of making 25% of places at faith schools available to those from other denominations, faiths and beliefs. The ‘Cantle Report’ investigated the causes of race riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham that year and drew attention to the existence of ethnically polarised and segregated communities, which it found some faith schools were exacerbating.
The new report ‘Racial discrimination by religiously selective faith schools: a worsening problem’ can be read at http://accordcoalition.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Racial-discrimination-by-religiously-selective-faith-schools-a-worsening-problem.-FAC-Accord.-Dec-2015.-1.pdf.