The Accord Coalition has urged the Government to facilitate greater ethnic mixing at state funded schools by extending the 50% religious selection in admissions cap for new academy faith schools to all existing faith schools. Accord’s call follows a speech on Monday (July 20th) by the Prime Minister, where he observed the negative impact of ethnic segregation and positive contribution of ethnic diversity in schools upon community cohesion. In the set speech on the topic of extremism, he said:
‘It cannot be right, for example, that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths. That doesn’t foster a sense of shared belonging and understanding – it can drive people apart … But it is right to look again more broadly at how we can move away from segregated schooling in our most divided communities. We have already said that all new faith academies and free schools must allocate half their places without reference to faith.‘
Accord has since written to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, urging that the 50% cap be extended so that faith schools become more inclusive and a clear signal is sent by government that state funded schools should look to serve families from a range of backgrounds. Although the schools implicated in the 2014 Birmingham scandal were not faith schools, some were seen as catering to those of particular backgrounds with expectations placed on staff and pupils to conform, a culture that segregatory state funded faith schools help validate.
Writing in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘David Cameron highlighted in his Birmingham speech the problems caused by children of different faiths being segregated in separate schools. He is right – if we want them to grow up in harmony they should sit next to each other in the same classroom, share lessons, break times and personal friendships, visit each other’s homes and understand each other’s culture. The assumption that religion and integration are incompatible is simply not true, and we should not collude with it.’