The Accord Coalition has urged Church of England officials to show greater leadership in steering its schools away from selecting pupils on religious grounds. Accord’s call follows comment from the Church’s Chief Education Officer noting how its schools are attractive to non-Christian families and ‘… are modelling an education where no passports are required and the doors are wide open to the communities they serve.’
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Faith schools that do not religiously discriminate against children in their admissions policy provide a positive example to others. However, they should not distract from the bigger picture.
‘Very many Church of England schools – and often its most popular schools – operate religiously selective admission arrangements. These schools are conferring privilege and segregating local children on account of faith.
‘There is currently a big mismatch between inclusive aspirations and the reality on the ground. If there is to be meaningful reform then Church officials must provide clear leadership and actively support their schools on a path towards non-discrimination.’
‘If we wish to have a tolerant integrated society, then we have to have an open, tolerant integrated educational system that helps produce it, which includes children not being separated into religious silos.’
Accord’s 2015 report ‘Racial discrimination by religiously selective faith schools: a worsening problem’ revealed how faith selection by state funded schools in England has become a major source of indirect racial discrimination in society, undermining Government integration and extremism strategies. The report observed how religious selection in admissions makes faith schools admit a more socio-economically exclusive pupil intake, which accounts for the sector’s stronger exam performance. The report found that because 98% of state funded faith schools are Christian, non-Christian families are losing out on places at many of the best schools across the country. Many of those children being systemically disadvantaged were found to be of South Asian heritage and come from Muslim families.
2013 research from the Accord Coalition supported Fair Admissions Campaign found that 50% of places at Church of England secondary schools could be awarded on religious grounds. The findings can found under the ‘Overall averages’ tab at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/map/.
Accord supporter and Rector of the Parish of Aldrington in Hove, the Rev Stephen Terry, told us in 2015 that ‘Faith selection at Church of England schools makes the Church appear defensive and inward looking, when the schools should look outwards, as an expression of the warmth and generosity of our mission to the whole community. Having open admissions would not just better serve local communities, but undoubtedly help achieve a more positive image and reputation for the Church in society.’