Religious discrimination in teacher employment questioned as more Church of England schools operate without a Christian head teacher

September 28, 2015

A new Church of England report into the training needs of its schools has revealed that many face practical difficulties due to pursuing religiously exclusive practices. Findings of the report include that:

  • in part due to external pressures on schools to achieve academically, ‘very low numbers of those interviewed/surveyed highlighted the Church’s mission to the most vulnerable in society through education as a priority’ (p16)
  • ‘it was noted by a number of school leaders that leading collective worship was often an area that teachers found difficult’ (p30)
  • the current national shortage of school leaders was ‘… felt even more acutely by the Church of England’s network in education’ (p36)
  • ‘many dioceses have become more flexible around the requirement that head teachers need to be practising Christians and can reference successful church school heads who are from other faiths or none at all but are able to maintain a clear vision for education in line with the overall vision outlined above’ (p36)

The growing number of faith schools that are successfully employing people from outside of the school’s faith poses further questions about the appropriateness of current arrangements, whereby state funded faith schools have exemptions from equality law to be able to discriminate on faith grounds in the recruitment and employment of their teachers.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘The growing the number of Church of England Schools that are appointing senior staff from outside the faith is encouraging. It further highlights that faith schools do not need to be able to discriminate by faith to uphold their ethos, and that those schools that operate discriminatory employment policies undermine the standard of their education by narrowing the pool of talent from which their teachers are drawn.’

‘It is welcome that Church authorities consider it important that their schools should help the vulnerable, but research shows that religiously selective schools are strongly skewed towards championing the affluent. If the Church is serious about helping the disadvantaged then it should amend its national guidance on pupil admissions, so that dioceses and schools are guided towards having open admission arrangements. Church authorities still have a long way to go until its stated ambitions match the reality.

‘Naturally, these goals of inclusivity and fairness should apply to faith schools under the auspices of other religious groups just as much. Discrimination should not be a part of school life.’

Research from the Fair Admissions Campaign in December 2014 showed that religiously selective state schools were socially exclusive. It found Church of England secondary schools that did not select children by religion admitted 1.43% fewer pupils entitled to Free School Meals (a government indicator of deprivation) than would be expected if the schools admitted children living locally. In stark contrast, those Church of England schools that sought to select all their pupils by faith if sufficiently oversubscribed admitted 34.60% fewer children entitled to Free School Meals than if they admitted local children. Most Church schools were originally established to provide education for those that could not afford it.

The Church of England Education Division’s paper ‘Training and Development Partnerships Project: Needs Analysis Report’ can be found at

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