Peers debate religious discrimination in employment in faith schools

September 16, 2011

The House of Lords debated the legality of laws that permit religious discrimination in the employment of teachers in faith schools this week.

Currently faith schools that are a voluntary aided school or an Academy can selected all their teachers on the grounds of religion if they choose, while voluntary controlled and foundation faith schools, which comprise of just over a third of state funded faith schools in England and Wales, can select 1/5 of their teachers on this basis. There is no requirement for these schools to show that such discrimination is proportionate or justified in any way – the law allows blanket discrimination. Furthermore, faith schools also have the power to discipline and dismiss these teachers because of conduct in their professional or private lives which the school itself deems incompatible with the tenets of its faith.

At the 10th sitting of the House of Lords Committee Stage of the Education Bill on Wednesday, Peers tabled and debated amendments. These amendments would have prevented such religious discrimination, as well as stopped the Secretary of State from being able by order to allow voluntary controlled and foundation faith schools that become an Academy to begin discriminating on these grounds in the employment of all their teachers.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said: ‘Although these amendments could not be put to a vote at this stage of the Bill, the debate highlighted how unfair, invasive and unnecessary are the laws that allow religious discrimination in teacher employment, and how they also contravene European Community law.’

‘The Government should therefore use the opportunity provided by the Education Bill to bring domestic law into line, rather than to give the Secretary of State power to increase the level of religious discrimination in teacher employment in the state school system. No faith should need to resort to discrimination in order to protect its teachings. If they do, they undermine their own credibility.’

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