Government urged to stop marginalising those concerned about faith schools

November 16, 2010

The Minster of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, has revealed that Minsters in the Department for Education have had numerous meetings with groups that favour faith schools operating in narrow and discriminatory ways since they took office in May, but has marginalised others.

Responding yesterday to a parliamentary question from Dr Julian Huppert MP, Mr Gibb revealed that Ministers had held meetings at his Department with representatives from the Church of England three times, representatives from the Catholic Church and Catholic Education Service for England and Wales three times, and met with the Board of Deputies of British Jews twice.

In contrast however the Accord Coalition, which represents a wide range of both religious and non-religious groups concerned about the way faith schools currently operate, has made five formal requests to meet with Education Ministers during this period, but has so far not been able to arrange any meetings.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said: ‘There are a wide range of views on faith schools and how they should operate. It is very worrying that during a period when the Government is undertaking such a wide programme of education reform that they have met so many times with groups that want faith schools to continue to operate in narrow and discriminatory ways, but have not taken into account the views of others, such as those represented by the Accord Coalition.

‘The Academies Act 2010 has had some very negative, but unintended consequences. For example, it unwittingly gives voluntary controlled faith schools that become a new Academy school far more power to discriminate on religious grounds in the employment and recruitment of teachers, while it also gives them the power to ignore their locally agreed RE curriculum, which requires they teach about different religious and non-religious worldviews, and lets them only teach about the school’s faith. This both denies children general knowledge of the many different traditions within Britain today and impedes social cohesion.

‘The Government should learn from this experience that they need to consult with interested parties to help improve decision making. It should also follow that because the Government is currently formulating such ambitious and radical changes, such as to the National Curriculum, that they should consult more widely, rather than less’.


The written answer provided by the Minster of State for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, can be viewed here.

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