Accord at the Party Conferences

September 30, 2011

Alice Robinson – the National President of the Association of Teachers and Lectures and Lisa Nandy MP, with Jonathan Bartley of the Christian think tank Ekklesia and Accord Coalition Steering Group

The Accord Coalition hosted its second fringe meeting of the Party conference season at the Labour Conference in Liverpool on Wednesday (September 28th), where the topic of whether religion in Education leads towards greater division or inspiration was discussed.

The guest speakers were Cllr Ralph Berry – Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People on Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Kevin Brennan MP – the Shadow Minister of State for Schools, Alice Robinson – the National President of the Association of Teachers and Lectures, and Lisa Nandy MP, who serves on the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

The speakers drew upon both national research and personal experience to pay tribute to those faith schools that worked most to operate in open and inclusive ways and highlight problems caused by those that did not. The panel was most concerned about faith schools that excluded children through their admission policy and provided a narrow teaching about the range of religions and beliefs in society in their RE lessons.

Sarah Teather MP, the Minister of State for Children and Families, with Accord Coordinator, Paul Pettinger

A similar meeting was held jointly by the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum and Accord at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference in Birmingham last week. There delegates heard views about the role of religion in education from Baroness Brinton of Kenardington, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and Vice President of the British Humanist Association Dr Evan Harris, the curriculum expert and educationalist Professor Mary James, and the Diocesan Director of Education for the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham, The Rev Jackie Hughes.

The panel was united on the importance of schools being inclusive, though the extent to which schools within the faith school sector were inclusive was contested. The panel also differed on the legal compulsion on state funded schools in England and Wales to provide daily worship of a wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character, with The Rev Jackie Hughes disagreeing with other panel members that the obligation was an imposition for non-Christians.

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