New Pressure Over Faith Schools

August 29, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: BBC News

Ministers are being urged to stop faith schools in England selecting pupils and staff on the basis of their religion.

Accord, a new coalition of secular and religious figures, wants the government to stop state-funded schools engaging in what they say is "discrimination".

It argues that all children should have equal access to good local schools and that segregating them on religious grounds harms community cohesion.

The government argues faith schools can help boost standards in deprived areas.

There are about 6,850 faith schools in England out of a total of 21,000 schools. The vast majority of these are Roman Catholic or Church of England.

But they also include about 40 Jewish schools and a handful of Muslim, Sikh and Greek Orthodox schools.

In September 2007, Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the government would open more faith schools where there was parental demand.

But the move has angered some teachers who complain of discriminatory employment practices.

The Accord coalition is made up of religious leaders, humanists and teachers who have come together to call for, not an end to, but a change to faith schools.