Accord urges Labour to include faith school admissions in its vision for education

September 25, 2018

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has urged the Labour Party to match its inclusive ambitions for England’s school system with policies that will best achieve these aims. Accord’s call follows a speech at the Labour autumn conference yesterday from the Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP, who said her Party would ensure state funded schools operated under a common rule book and did not entrench social privilege.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘At Labour’s 2016 Conference Angela Rayner stated the school system should provide “education not segregation”. This year she has called for state funded schools to not entrench social privilege. Angela Rayner is right to stress these as priorities, which are very important as well as popular aims.

‘Faith school admissions are however the most significant source of division and social disadvantage in the school system. If Labour is serious about making progress then it must commit to reforming them.’.


Religiously selective faith schools validate and have entrenched a culture that considers it ‘okay’ for state funded schools to be seen as serving certain groups. They are frequently cited as helping undermine community cohesion and are a major source of socio-economic disadvantage.

Findings in 2014 from the Accord Coalition supported Fair Admissions Campaign revealed that state funded religiously selective schools were making England’s school system twice as socio-economically segregated than grammar schools were. In contrast, research from the Campaign in 2013 found faith schools that did not operate a religiously selective admissions policy were nearly as inclusive of pupils from a deprived background as comprehensive schools.

Faith schools are permitted to operate a religiously discriminatory pupils admissions policy because they are exempt from the prohibition on religious discrimination in the 2010 Equality Act. Opinion polling consistently shows religious selection in faith school admissions is very unpopular with voters, including by a large majority of adherents of all major world faiths and England and Wales’ largest Christian denominations, who are each found to oppose such discrimination.

Religious selection is also found to serve as a proxy for selection by race. Last month the Department for Education released a report indicating minority ethnic families in big urban areas have a significantly reduced chance of difficulty of accessing state funded Church schools. 98% of state funded faith schools are Church schools. People of Black and South Asian heritage were found to be particularly disadvantaged.

The report concluded causes of the disadvantage are not clear but that ‘… possible explanations must focus on the admissions practices of Church schools‘ (p35). It further noted ‘these findings imply that the patterns of segregation in Church schools are not explained by [parental] preferences, and are, at least in part, due to children failing to gain admission at chosen schools‘. (p38)

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