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News 2008
News ->New campaign to end discrimination by faith schools launched

New campaign to end discrimination by faith schools launched
(1 September 2008)

Muslim GirlAccord, a new coalition launched today, is calling on Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls to stop state-funded faith schools discriminating against students and teachers on the grounds of their beliefs. The launch comes on the day that a law has been brought in allowing religious schools further to restrict employment on the grounds of belief. From today discrimination in staffing will be extended to headteachers in voluntary controlled schools and to non-teaching staff in voluntary aided schools.

The well-attended event drew together representatives from religious organisations, charities and teachers’ union ATL. The founder members of the coalition and its Chair Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain united to rebut the claim that faith schools do not in fact discriminate.

Speaking at the launch Accord Chair Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: “While the Faith Schools Providers Group claim that state-funded religious schools are not discriminatory, in reality they are allowed to choose both staff and students according to their beliefs. We want an educational system that respects all and disadvantages no one. Faith schools should be tolerant and transparent.”

Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL (also an Accord founder member) said: ‘We need schools which embrace the diversity in our communities, not schools which divide pupils and staff by faith. All children – regardless of their religion, culture, and family income – should have equal access to the best possible education in a good local school. Allowing schools to pick and choose pupils is not the best way to achieve this or to create young adults with the confidence and personal skills to live and work in our vibrant multi-cultural society.’

Andrew Copson, British Humanist Association (BHA) Director of Education and Public Affairs, said: “The BHA has always approached the issue of faith schools from a human rights perspective. Along with other members of Accord we want all state schools to be open to children of different backgrounds so that they can learn with and from each other”

Simon Barrow, Co-Director of religion and society think tank said in a message “If church schools are overwhelmingly funded by the general taxpayer, as they are, then the public as a whole have a reason to expect that they will be run for all by all. To reject discrimination and a narrow approach, to seek equal opportunities, and to be sensitive to those of other faiths and none, is no threat to a “Christian ethos”; it is its truest exemplification.”

Opinion polls have repeatedly shown widespread public opposition to faith schools and campaigners believe that with such widespread support their case will be hard for the government to ignore. A Guardian ICM poll in 2005 found that 64% of the public agreed that “the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind.”

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