Public challenge to Michael Gove

June 10, 2014

The Accord Coalition challenges Mr Gove to adhere to his own principles. The Secretary of State for Education has announced that his Department will explore whether to require schools to ‘promote’ British values. The Accord Coalition asks, is discrimination a British value? If not, he should remove the ability of faith schools to discriminate in their pupil admissions policy by refusing entry to children of ‘the wrong faith’, block the employment of teachers who do not adhere to ‘the right faith’, and limit the curriculum in matters of religion, science, biology and sex education.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said ‘Whilst there has been much attention given to problems in Birmingham, what is even more worrying is the ability of many other schools – belonging to a variety of different faiths – to do legally what has happened in Birmingham illegally. This is an even greater scandal.’

Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of the British public are opposed to religious discrimination by state funded faith schools. Independent schools currently already have to have ‘respect’ for British values. November 2013 Department for Education guidance on meeting their obligations under the standard for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils contained in the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010 sets out a definition of British values. In notes that schools should:

‘encourage pupils to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs … the kinds of understanding and knowledge that can be expected in pupils as a result of schools meeting this part of the standard … [include] an understanding that the freedom to hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law, and an acceptance that other people having different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour;’ (p7 – underline Accord’s emphasis)



A November 2012 poll commissioned by Accord and conducted by ComRes showed that 73% of respondents agreed that ‘state funded schools, including state funded faith schools, should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy’, half (50%) stated that they agreed “strongly”. Only 18% of respondents disagreed.

A June 2011 ComRes poll commissioned by Premiere Christian Radio found that 84% of people agreed (to 11% against) that ‘learning about the religions and cultures of other people is an important part of understanding modern society.

A March 2011 ComRes poll commissioned by Office of the Children’s Commissioner found that only 20% of children and young people aged 5 to 11 felt it was right that secondary schools choose pupils because of their religion, to 64% against.

Permitting faith discrimination by state funded schools is out of step with international competitors. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published in January 2012 showed that the UK was one of only a very few OECD member countries that permit religious selection at state schools (table 2.3 p15).

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