Accord announces fresh wave of Distinguished Supporters in Parliament

January 10, 2014

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has announced nine new supporters from the four largest groupings at Westminster. The group comprise of five Labour members, two Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat and one cross bench Peer. Most have served in senior roles in education policy, including four who are former Ministers at the Department for Education.

Lord (Jim) Knight

Lord Knight, Minister of State for Schools (2006-2009)

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘I am delighted to welcome the nine as Distinguished Supporters. Not only do they help to strengthen Accord’s voice yet further, but they bring with them an enormous wealth of experience and highlight the growing and widespread support for making state funded schools open and suitable for all, regardless of the religion or beliefs of staff, children or their family.’

Explaining his decision to join Accord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, who served as Minister of State for Schools from 2006 to 2009, said:

‘I strongly support what Accord stands for. I want our children to grow up in a country that celebrates and respects our differences of culture, faith and belief. This belief in community cohesion is at the heart of Accord’s work to ensure all schools are open to all regardless of any religious conviction, and that the curriculum is similarly balanced.’

Another new supporter, Conservative MP and active Anglican, Sir Peter Bottomley, said:

Sir Peter Bottomley MP with Gorge Carey

A visit to Sir Peter’s local Sunday school group from George Carey

‘Familiarity and knowledge should lead to respect and understanding; separation and ignorance can lead to prejudice and rejection. It is painful to recall the censuring of a Presbyterian Lord Chancellor for attending the Catholic funeral of a fellow judge.

When I was in industry, a colleague was touched when workmates asked to come to his mother’s Jewish funeral. He said it was the first time he felt accepted fully. Imagine the pain of a gentle Muslim being thought in some way to be responsible for violence of extreme co-religionists? If we grow up together, we can grow together without any threat to the positive parts of our beliefs and customs.’

Baron Howarth of Newport has served in various ministerial posts, including as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Education between 1989 and 1992, and again between 1997 and 1998. Explaining his decision to join he told Accord:

‘We should seek to make our schools microcosms of a society in which, through shared experience and learning, mutual understanding and respect transcend barriers of class, culture and religion.’

The full list of Accord’s nine new supporters is as follows:

  • Sir Peter Bottomley MP. MP for 38 years; a Warden at St Margaret’s Church by Westminster Abbey and a member of Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee, which examines measures put forward by the Church of England’s General Synod before they become law
    Baroness Flather

    Baroness Flather, crossbench peer and champion in Parliament for schools to better promote community cohesion

  • Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead. A teacher, crossbench peer and the first Asian woman to receive a peerage
  • Lord Howarth of Newport. Junior minister in the Department for Education from 1989-1992 and 1997-1998
  • The Rt Hon Dr Kim Howells. Former Labour MP and Government minister, including serving in several posts within the Department for Education: Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Lifelong Learning (1997-1998); Minister of State for Universities (2004) and Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (2004-2005)
  • Baroness Hughes of Stretford. Has served in various Government posts, including as Minister of State for Children and Youth Justice within the Department for Education from 2005-2009. She also speaks on education matters for the Labour Party in the House of Lords
  • Lord Knight of Weymouth. Spokesperson for the Labour Party in the House of Lords on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and former Minister of State for Schools, 2006-2009.
  • Barry Sheerman MP. Former Labour Party Shadow Education Secretary (1983-1988) and Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee from 1999-2010. Is also a Lay Canon at Wakefield Cathedral
  • Lord Willis of Knaresborough. A former secondary school Headteacher and Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary from 1999-2005
  • Tim Yeo MP. Conservative MP since 1983, having served in several posts in Government and as a senior Party Spokesperson. Current Chair of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

The group join Accord’s list of Distinguish Supporters, who hold differing views on matters of religion and belief and come from varying professional backgrounds. The list includes:

  • Professor Al-Khalili OBE, theoretical physicist, author and Science broadcaster
  • Professor Ted Cantle CBE, Chair of the Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) Foundation and national expert on inter-cultural relations
  • Professor A.C. Grayling, philosopher and author
  • Rt Rev Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh
  • Fiona Miller, education campaigner
  • Philip Pullman, author
  • Sir Richard Roberts, Nobel Laureate
  • Polly Toynbee, journalist and writer

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