A new report by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign, has issued a warning about how religious selection in faith school pupil admissions has become a major and worsening source of racial discrimination in Britain’s school system, and is undermining Government anti-extremism and social integration strategies.
The report highlights the problem through a case study of four religiously selective schools whose admission policies indirectly racially discriminate against local children of South Asian heritage. It finds that, due to the local interplay between religion and race, selection by faith is serving as a proxy for selection by race in many ethnically mixed areas of Britain. Over a third of state funded schools in England and Wales are faith schools and 98% of these are Christian. Faith schools often obtain good results due to the skewed social and ability profile of their pupils which, as a consequence, means that many of best schools in the country are being effectively closed to families of some racial groups.
The report finds:
- many of those who are being disadvantaged are of South Asian heritage and from a Muslim background, and that the school system is becoming systemically discriminatory on these grounds
- families losing out are those that would wish to send their child to the same school as other local families, but are being prevented from doing so
- the disadvantage is being entrenched, as successive generations from the same families lose out
- the discrimination is undermining the Government’s current Counter-Extremism Strategy of building ‘cohesive communities, tackling the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages’
- the disadvantage goes against the values of faith groups and their common desire to support those in society who are marginalised
- the problems are set to only worsen due to demographic change, unless reforms are made
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘At a time when the Government is seeking to prioritise policies to combat extremism and boost opportunity for social integration, it seems deeply irresponsible that many faith schools should be undermining these goals by entrenching segregation and privilege on racial grounds.
‘We call on the Secretary of State for Education and those that sponsor faith schools to urgently reform the faith school admissions system, so that it is better aligned to existing policies and is brought into line with the realities of operating in a diverse society. The current system is deeply flawed, and lets down religious values, community cohesion and many local families.’
The Accord Coalition report, produced on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign, questions the legality of schools operating an oversubscription policy that indirectly discriminates against children on the grounds of race. It urges the Government to extend its current cap of 50% religious selection in admissions at newly created academy faith schools, to all existing state funded faith schools. As an immediate measure, it urges religious authorities that sponsor faith schools to adopt the proposal put forward by the 2001 Home Office sponsored ‘Cantle Report‘ of making 25% of places at faith schools available to those from other denominations, faiths and beliefs. The ‘Cantle Report’ investigated the causes of race riots in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham that year and drew attention to the existence of ethnically polarised and segregated communities, which it found some faith schools were exacerbating.
The new report ‘Racial discrimination by religiously selective faith schools: a worsening problem’ can read at http://accordcoalition.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Racial-discrimination-by-religiously-selective-faith-schools-a-worsening-problem.-FAC-Accord.-Dec-2015.-1.pdf.
About the Fair Admissions Campaign
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations, who hold varying views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools, but all believe faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.