Department for Education urged to promote religious inclusion in the interests of national unity

June 22, 2021

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has urged the Department for Education to free England’s state funded school system of religious discrimination in the interests of national unity. The appeal has been made in response to the Department for Education lending its support this week to One Britain One Nation Day, which is taking place this coming Friday (25th June).

Schools are being encouraged to observe the day by the One Britain One Nation campaign in order ‘to create unity and pride’ in the UK. An advice brochure produced by the campaign urges schools to dress pupils in red, white and blue and to organise a range of activities. They include at 10 am on Friday participating schools all arranging a one-minute clap in tribute of those who have helped during the Covid 19 pandemic and singing a patriotic song titled ‘We are Britain and we have one dream to unite all people in one Great Team’.

Despite education being a devolved matter, the Department for Education has encouraged schools across the UK to take part in One Britain One Nation Day. The advice about the Day given to schools by One Britain One Nation affirms both patriotic and inclusive goals. It states that the campaign is seeking to ‘create a spirit of inclusion with a collective purpose and a common future where we all seek to eliminate hatred, intolerance and discrimination of any kind so that all our people can feel and develop a strong and shared sense of belonging in order to showcase their pride, passion and love for our great nation.’ (p3)

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Revd Stephen Terry, said ‘Schools are the state funded institutions that can do most to promote integration and community cohesion in society. However, their credibility in doing so is greatly hampered by the Department for Education’s persistence in maintaining a school system that is deeply religiously divisive.’

‘Under current legislation, most faith schools in England – over one third of the total number of state funded schools – are permitted to operate religiously segregationist and discriminatory pupil admission arrangements. Non-faith schools are meanwhile required to provide daily worship of a broadly Christian character, despite many staff, pupils and their families not having a shared religious faith.’

‘If it is truly important to the Department for Education that schools promote national unity, and if it really wants to demonstrate its pride in the diverse society we have become, then it must urgently tackle the religious discrimination that pervades our school system. The ways in which the wide variety of religions and beliefs are currently handled are hopelessly anachronistic and completely at odds with the needs of contemporary Britain.’

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