Accord wants all schools to be made open to children of every background, no matter what their parents’ or their own beliefs, open to all teachers qualified to teach in them, and for children to learn about the beliefs of others, thereby better preparing them for life in an increasingly diverse society.
The main conduit through which the Accord Coalition’s supporters take action at a local level is the Fair Admissions Campaign, which was co-launched by Accord in June 2013. It builds on work that Accord has undertaken with local campaign groups and the initiative has the single aim of stopping religious discrimination in pupil admissions. More information on the Campaign can be found below.
Stopping selection by faith in admissions is just one of Accord’s goals, and we want to work with and support those who also seek to advance Accord’s other key aims in their local area. Some schools provide a narrow education about the range of religious and philosophical beliefs held in society and many faith schools discriminate against staff on faith grounds – Accord seeks to reform these existing schools and opposes proposals to open new schools like them. In practice, the Fair Admissions Campaign also provides useful pointers for those wanting to campaign locally on these other issues, and if you plan to take action you could campaign in the following ways:
- Find out if anyone else is campaigning against the proposed school, or practices at an existing school. Parents, teachers, local trade union branches are often all involved in local campaign coalitions against controversial new schools.
- Respond to local consultations. It need not be a long or formal response, just an objection on principle, with some local knowledge if possible. The consultation document should be available on the council website, along with contact details for the officials responsible.
- Collect more information, either from Council documents or from the local media about the progress of the proposal and other future proposals.
- Write to the LEA’s Director of Education asking for more information and making objections.
- Write to local councillors and to members of the Education Committee to express concern and to seek their support.
- Contact your MP and make him/her aware of your views, either by letter or at a local surgery.
- Write to local newspapers and radio stations. MPs and councillors pay a great deal of attention to the local press and publicity will also help inform those who don’t know about the proposal or the arguments against it.
- If you live outside the relevant LEA, point out to your councillor or MP that wide catchment areas mean that new schools can affect areas outside the LEA. Neighbouring LEAs should also be consulted.
- Tell us so we might offer help, advice and put you in touch with others who may wish to get involved
Campaigning with the Fair Admissions Campaign
The Fair Admissions Campaign is an ecumenical campaign focused solely on reducing and preventing state funded faith schools in England and Wales selecting pupils on the grounds of religion, and the unwelcome consequences of this selection in terms of religious, ethnic, social and economic segregation.
While the campaign would ultimately welcome legislative change to end such selection, it specially seeks to encourage Dioceses and individual religiously selective schools to embrace open/more open admission arrangements, and to encourage local campaigns seeking to ensure that local schools are made inclusive. More generally, it also hopes to further empower reformers within government and faith groups who would like schools to be open to the whole community, and make the weight of those who support inclusive admissions even harder to ignore.
An opinion poll commissioned by Accord in November 2012 showed that the public agree by a ratio of four to one that ‘state funded schools, including state funded faith schools, should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy.’ So it is clear the campaign has widespread public support.
The Campaign’s website contains a range of useful information, including setting out a range of reasons why religious selection in admissions should be opposed, and offering advice to campaigners. There are three ways you could get involved:
- You could help set up a local campaign group – a group could campaign for local schools to be made more inclusive and against proposals for new discriminatory schools
- You could write to your MP, AM, Councillors and local newspapers
- You could complain to the Schools Adjudicator if you believe a local school is breaking the Admissions Code
A new step the Campaign will soon be taking is to map schools by their religious admissions policies, as well as looking at how socio-economically representative they are compared to other schools in their local areas. The Campaign will then produce an online map where schools will be given a score based on how well they do in these two measures. People will be able to compare their local schools to each other, as well as compare different areas and Dioceses.