Accord calls for wide ranging review following latest Birmingham school findings

July 18, 2014

crayon-rainbowThe Accord Coalition has called for a public inquiry into the role of religion and belief in state funded schools following the release of another two deeply concerning government reports regarding a group of community schools in Birmingham fostering a mono-vision. A report by Birmingham City Council has been released today, while findings from a report commissioned by the Department for Education were leaked to the Guardian last night. They follow another than was released by Ofsted in June.

Both of the latest reports found a pattern of inappropriate behaviour at schools, including staff coming under undue pressure and pupils being provided with a narrow curriculum, such as providing a blinkered view about the range of beliefs in society and denying them sex and relationships education. The Council’s report found some schools provided pupils with Islamic assemblies and criticised a lack of monitoring and oversight from by the local authority. The Department’s report has recommended that it should ‘… review the process by which schools are able to convert to academy status and become multi-academy trusts.’

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘Accord has repeatedly warned of the dangers of persisting with a school system fragmented by religion and lacking in safeguards. The Birmingham schools issue highlights a fundamental inequity in the education system, with privileges for some groups to continue to act in narrow and exclusive ways, combined with unchecked freedoms for schools that can be misused.

‘As a society, we have failed so far to properly accommodate people of different religions and beliefs in education. The sooner our leaders have the courage to re-examine this settlement, the sooner we can move towards a system that is fair, sustainable and inclusive.

‘The response to the Birmingham cases must not be to single groups out, or to brush wider problems under the carpet. We call upon the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP, to commission a public inquiry into the role of religion and belief in schools, and for all parties to seek consensus over this pressing social issue. Rather than sowing the seeds for social division though schools, the state should be facilitating the growth of mutual understanding and respect. Future generations will not thank us for leaving them with one that is divisive.’

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