Government 'allergic' to debate on faith schools says ex-minister

Government 'allergic' to debate on faith schools says ex-minister

There was a very interesting comment by ex Government minister James Purnell in an interview in Saturday's Guardian.

He said that the Government was "allergic" to a debate on the wisdom of faith schools. The story is here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/17/james-purnell-gordon-brow... with a link to the full interview.

It is good to hear a former Government minister confirm what has been our feeling too, particularly as the evidence has mounted recently of the problems that faith schools present. See for example (and this list is far from exhaustive):

- Social Market Foundation: http://smf.co.uk/assets/files/publications/SchoolAdmissionsCommission.pdf

- Dr Rebecca Allen and Dr Anna Vignoles: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/apr/23/religion-fait... Also their evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-04405.pdf

- Anne West, Eleanor Barham and Audrey Hind (Rise Trust): http://www.risetrust.org.uk/Secondary.pdf

- Runnymede Trust: http://www.runnymedetrust.org/uploads/publications/pdfs/RightToDivide-20...

- Stephen Gibbons and Olmo Sliva: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cfm/dp4089.pdf?abstractid=1369835&m...

This is not a question of getting rid of faith schools. Rather it is about being realistic and honest and facing up to the problems which are caused by their discriminatory admissions and employment policies, which are unjust and cause resentment and division in local communities. These issues need to be discussed not sidelined.

The question is not “if” but “when” this or a subsequent Government is going to wake up and talk about such problems. The Lib Dems to their credit have done so. Accord – the coalition we co-founded to reform faith schools will have a stand at the Conservative Party conference. It will be interesting to take soundings about whether the Tory party suffers from the same allergies as Labour.

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