Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has told The Tablet that ‘I’ve always protected the right of faiths to establish faith schools. In my own view the crucial thing for faith schools, and I think all the best faith schools do this, is to make sure they act as engines of integration and not silos of segregation. Where they don’t, I do think it’s legitimate to ask faith schools to reach out to other faiths and to other parts of the community.’
Welcoming his comments, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, said, ‘Full marks to Nick Clegg for saying out aloud what most people – including those of faith – hold: that state-funded faith schools should not divide children from one another and ghettoise the next generation. Inclusivity is a religious value, and it is a blot on the religious landscape that many faith schools have preferred to segregate children of different backgrounds rather than integrate them. There can be no excuse for school governors to pursue admissions policies that smack of religious apartheid.’
Jeremy Rodell, chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, commented, ‘In this part of outer London there are many examples of over-subscribed state-funded church schools that are effectively closed to many local children simply on the basis of their parents’ religion. Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham, who supports faith schools in principle, called last year for local church schools to be “more community minded” in their admissions. But in practice school governing bodies simply refuse to change, preferring to maintain their discriminatory admissions policies. With the support of their churches, they have the power to do so. Only action from government will put England into line with almost all other developed countries and reduce or eliminate faith-based discrimination in access to state-funded schools. Maybe Nick Clegg’s intervention is a first step.’
Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘In 2010, the Liberal Democrat manifesto said that “We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy.” This transformed into a Coalition agreement commitment to “ensure that all new Academies follow an inclusive admissions policy. We will… facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of [new faith] schools as possible”, which in turn became the policy that Free Schools are only allowed to select up to half of pupils on the basis of faith.
‘While all of this is very welcome, it leaves untouched the vast majority of state-funded faith schools, many of whom have policies enabling them to select every single pupil on the basis of faith. 99.8% of places at Roman Catholic secondary schools are subject to religious admissions criteria, with the pecking order typically being Catholics then other Christian then other faiths then those of no faith. A lot more work needs to be done to stop these schools from being the “silos of segregation” Mr Clegg fears – starting with a renewal of his party’s manifesto commitment.’
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Read more about Liberal Democrat party policy on faith school admissions: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/our-supporters/what-others-say/
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.