Accord has just had a positive meeting with the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Angela Rayner MP, and Shadow Schools Minister, Mike Kane MP.
At the meeting, Accord set out key concerns about the how the current direction of education policy was leading to more, rather than less, religious and ethnic segregation between English schools. It also pointed out how religious selection of pupils by faith schools was leading to increased socio-economic division, and how the 50% religious selection cap – which limits faith free schools from not selecting more than half of their pupils by faith, but which the Government wants to abolish – was serving to make the English school system more racially inclusive.
Accord expressed anxiety about how some state funded schools fail to provide pupils with broad and balanced Religious Education and Sex and Relationships Education. It highlighted problems around a lack of consistency, training and inspection in the provision of these subjects, and how the laws that demand daily worship in schools were failing to respect the autonomy of pupils and staff, and were often flouted.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: ‘We are grateful to Mike Kane and Angela Rayner for meeting with us and taking on board our concerns. The Labour education team made it clear that they believe the school curriculum should provide pupils with a minimum entitlement to a broad and balanced education, and that reforms should be steered by expert opinion. They also reaffirmed that they oppose the proposed scrapping of the 50% faith selection cap at faith free schools.’
‘The 50% cap has made schools more mixed and sends a clear signal from government that state funded schools should not be cultural silos. It has been an important reform, on an eventual path to less discrimination and stronger social cohesion.’
The Accord delegation consisted of Steering Group members: Simon Barrow (Ekklesia), Richy Thompson (BHA), Paul Pettinger (National Co-ordinator), Alison Ryan (ATL) and Jonathan Romain (Chair).