Religion and schools research updated

March 13, 2021

The Accord Coalition has updated this week two important sources of information that it makes freely available regarding religiously divisive and discriminatory practices in the school system. The first is Accord’s databank of independent research into religion and schools. The document focuses largely on practices at state funded faiths schools and brings together objective findings from a wide range of academic and other sources.

The second is a collection of testimonies and media reports about religiously exclusive practices that pupils, families or teachers have endured. Both resources focus on England and Wales and, together provide a thorough overview of problems with how religious issues are currently negotiated in schools.

The databank was launched in 2011 and has been regularly updated since. Additions to the latest revision include a warning last September from the Local Government Association (LGA) that many more local authority areas of England are expected to experience a shortage of secondary school places. The LGA have warned that, unless action is taken, the proportion of local authorities with a shortage of secondary places will grow from 2% in the current 2020/21 school year, to a third in 2025/26.

Religiously selective schools choose pupils by faith when they are oversubscribed. If a school place shortage were to take place on the scale feared then it can be expected to lead to a significant increase in religious discrimination in admissions by faith schools in England, as families increasingly scramble for secondary places.

Accord’s collection of testimonial evidence mainly contains information the campaign has received from members of the public or which has been reported on in the media. It also however records testimonial evidence that other groups have published. This is demonstrated in the latest revision by the inclusion of evidence from the group Nahamu, which upholds individual autonomy and challenges abuses of power within Britain’s ultra-orthodox community.

In a report published last month about forced marriages amongst Charedi Jews, Nahamu provided four pages of anonymised and annotated testimonial evidence highlighting how social factors can lead to forced marriages taking place. Accord has only reproduced small sections of the powerful evidence which relate directly to schools. The full evidence, which highlights how an interplay of various factors can help lead to forced marriages taking pace, can be found here (p9-12).

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Revd Stephen Terry, said ‘The findings that the two resources point to are varied, but the overall narrative is clear that the English and Welsh school systems are still failing to properly adjust to the realities of operating in an increasingly religiously diverse society. Accord hopes the resources will help campaigners and other interested parties ensure public debate around religious inclusion in schools can be grounded on evidence about the consequences of current policies and practices.’

If you are aware of any relevant research that is missing from the databank, please let the Accord office know at or on 020 7243 3071.

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