England and Wales are unusual in allowing any discrimination in admissions at state-funded faith schools

May 10, 2017

2012 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that the UK was one of only a very few number of OECD member countries that permit religious selection at state schools (table 2.3 p15). Research by the Accord supported group, the Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC), reinforces this finding. The OECD identifies the Republic of Ireland, Estonia and Israel as having religiously selective state-funded schools. In some Canadian provinces there are publicly funded Catholic schools that can refuse admission to non-Catholics before high school. The FAC is also aware that in Germany, a small number of private religious schools receive state funds and can religiously select. In the Netherlands, private faith schools that receive state funding can loosely require pupils and parents to support the mission/vision of the school. But the FAC and Accord are not aware of any other countries. Countries with strong religious traditions – including Catholic traditions – such as Italy, Spain and Poland, do not have religious discrimination in admissions to any state-funded schools.

In November 2016 the Catholic International Education Office/ Office International De L’Enseignement Catholique (OIEC) issued an inclusive and non-discriminatory mission statement for Catholic schools, which it produced for a Council of Europe education seminar. It highlights a significant difference between the support for religiously discriminatory approaches by Catholic authorities in England and Wales and those in some other countries. The short briefing notes that Catholic schools should be:

• A school that joins forces with other bodies of formal and informal education at local and national level for the benefit of local populations, young and old, without any discrimination. … A non-discriminatory school, open to all … In conclusion, the Catholic school is anything but a communitarian school. It is open to all … It must constantly promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue, if it is to continue its mission. This is in any case a motto of the OIEC, all over the world.

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