Ethnic ghettoisation of English schools revealed

July 6, 2015

A new study for the think tank Demos has revealed that schools in England are not keeping pace with the changing ethnic profile of society and are a major source of segregation. The detailed research found that between 2008 and 2013 ‘… the levels of segregation in English schools has remained stable or only somewhat declined as the nation’s diversity has increased substantially’.

In regards to faith schools, the author’s observed that ‘Religious identities often overlap with ethnic identities and therefore some faith schools effectively exclude other ethnic groups’. The study found that primary schools in the Blackburn, Bradford and Oldham local authority areas were the most ethnically segregated in the country. All three boroughs experienced race riots in the summer of 2001.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘The culture where some schools are seen as for and belonging to certain groups is made worse by faith schools. The Government can help to de-escalate the situation by ensuring all state funded schools teach about the range of religious and non-religious beliefs in society, and by extending to all faith schools the limit placed on most new faith schools to not religiously select more than half their pupils.

‘The education system has to change and adopt itself to the fact that it exists in an increasingly diverse society. Schools that purposely divide by religion or ethnicity, and which provide a blinkered Religious Education, cannot be part of a more integrated and cohesive future.’



Religious Education is in the anomalous position of being the only compulsory subject that is not part of the National Curriculum. Most schools follow a locally agreed syllabus, which is produced by their local authority responsible for education. Meanwhile, at most faith schools and academies the RE syllabus taught is determined by the school itself. The RE at these faith schools is not inspected by the government and can be overtly instructional and not expose pupils to world views other than that of the school.

One Response to Ethnic ghettoisation of English schools revealed

  1. karl meyer on July 8, 2015 at 9:58 am

    An interesting an depressing article. I’d like to clarify two things within your note.

    Firstly although it is compulsory for schools to teach Religious Education (RE) as a subject it is not compulsory for students to take part in those lessons or in Collective Worship (CW). Parents (or in the 6th form the students themselves) can opt out of RE and CW in any state funded school (including faith schools). However many schools (particularly faith schools) raise significant barriers to this right to opt out citing inability to supervise students or merging daily assembly with worship to make opting out impractical. Most schools do not inform parents of their rights to opt out meaning that few exercise that right and resulting in those children being singled out by teachers and other children.

    Secondly the local syllabus is produced by the Local Authority through the structure of a SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education). This committee is composed of councillors and representatives of religious groups with an effective standing majority for the Church of England. This means this syllabus is not neutral but is created by the religious groups who themselves have a policy to recruit children.

    It is virtually impossible for a secular or atheist member to get onto these SACREs and so there is no way to ensure humanism or atheism get any representation within the syllabus. Given that 25-30% of the population have “none” as their religion (as of 2011 census) this seems hardly fair or equal!

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