The Accord Coalition has welcomed the radical suggestion from the Bishop of Oxford, The Rt Revd John Pritchard, in an interview in today’s Times Education Supplement that Church of England Schools should limit the proportion of pupils that they select on the grounds of religion to 10% of their intake.
This is a major departure from previous policy, with some schools selecting 100% of pupils on religious grounds.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said ‘this is a very welcome step that attempts to help rectify current policy, which means that religion and discrimination in schools have become almost synonymous. Schools should be inclusive and tolerant and no state funded school should be allowed to discriminate on the grounds of religion for any of their teacher posts or any pupil places. That way we will help create a future society that is more inclusive and tolerant.
‘There has been a growing disquiet recently both within religious circles and generally as to the way in which faith-based schools have become sources of division within society; schools, especially state-funded ones, should serve the community around them; the Bishop of Oxford’s proposals will move Church schools back towards that direction.
‘Evidence of support for a more inclusive admissions policy came in an ICM survey for Channel 4 last summer, which found that 59% of adults believed schools should be for everyone, regardless of religion, while only last month a report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner found that pupils opposed schools selecting on the grounds of religion by 64% to 20%.’
The Bishop, who is also Chair of the Church of England’s Board of Education and the episcopal spokesperson on education in the House of Lords, has spoken ahead of the publication of new Church of England guidance later this summer for diocesan education boards.
Over 20% of state funded schools in England are Church of England schools, and most of its secondary schools and almost 45% of its primary and middle schools are able to select all of their pupils on religious grounds if they are sufficiently oversubscribed.
The ‘Faith Schools Survey’ undertaken for Channel 4 by ICM in August 2010 can be found here.
The survey from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner referred to above can be found on page 27 of their report ‘Children and Young People’s View on Education Policy’, which was released at the end of March 2011.