The youth wing of the Liberal Democrats, Liberal Youth, has announced today that it is joining the Accord Coalition – the country’s leading campaign seeking to ensure that state funded schools promote mutual understanding, and are open and made suitable for all children, regardless of their or their parents’ religious or non-religious beliefs.
Chair of Liberal Youth, Harry Matthews, said ‘In 1871 a Liberal Government introduced the University Tests Act, which prevented Universities from discriminating in student admissions and employment on religious grounds for all non-theological courses, and brought to an end requirements for staff and students to engage in worship.
‘The notion that Universities should again be allowed to operate in these ways seems absurd, yet these practices pervade the state funded school systems of the UK today. Liberal Youth is therefore joining Accord to help make the proposition that our schools should respect the autonomy of students and not discriminate on faith grounds, as embedded and widely accepted in society, as it has long been for Higher Education.’
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘I am pleased to welcome Liberal Youth to Accord’s growing rank of member organisations, and am especially pleased to welcome a group that seeks to represent, and has among its own membership, young people of school age, whose views are so often ignored when society debates education policy’.
Liberal Youth is affiliated to the Liberal Democrats, and represents all Liberal Democrat members aged under the age of 26 and students in Higher Education. Accord is backed by members from all the main political Parties. Liberal Youth join Accord’s diverse range of existing supporters, who include the:
- Association of Teachers and Lecturers
- British Humanist Association
- British Muslims for Secular Democracy
- Christian think tank Ekklesia
- Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement
- General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
- Socialist Education Association, which is affiliated to the Labour Party
- Baroness Blackstone, Labour Peeress and Minister for Education (1997-2001)
- Lord Glentoran, Conservative Peer and Olympic gold medallist
- Naomi Long MP of the Alliance Party, Northern Ireland’s largest non-sectarian Party
- Dr Caroline Lucas MP, former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales
- Philip Pullman, author
- Polly Toynbee, journalist
A survey in the autumn of 2010 of a “representative sample” of 1957 children and young people aged between 9 and 16 years old, by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, found:
“However, only one in five (20%) children and young people felt that religion (a proxy for faith schools) should be used in admissions criteria and nearly two-thirds (64%) felt religion should not be part of school’s selection criteria (and 16% were unsure). The focus group participants also tended to hold strong views against selection on religious grounds” P27.