Commenting on a newly released Church of England commissioned report on schools and community cohesion, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia said:
"Many church schools do indeed work hard to promote good community relations. But in mixed areas people of other faith and different culture or belief do not live in books or in classroom exercises, they live down your street - and you need to meet them on a regular basis. That is why admission and employment policies based on religious selection, which have undoubtedly led to segregation in many areas, are so damaging.
"It is not good enough to credit faith schools with the extra work they have to do on cohesion as a result of restrictive admissions policies without including these in the assessment criteria.
"Professor Jesson's report needs to be evaluated carefully, and considered in relation to the significant body of independent evidence that paints a rather different picture. Examples of good practice are to be encouraged. But they should not be allowed to push away genuine problems.
"In terms of direct issues of community relations, the four most significant recent reports have been the 2008 Runnymede Trust report ‘Right to Divide?’ (which examined religious schools in their full historical, cultural, political and educational context, interviewing 1,000 stakeholders, including, parents, pupils, governors and teachers); the Oldham Independent Review report in the aftermath of the 2001 riots there (the Richie Report); the 2009 Cantle report on community cohesion in Blackburn and Darwen and the 2001 Cantle Report, following similar disturbances in Bradford and Burnley.
"All four pieces of research directly connect religiously restrictive admissions policies with the isolation of particular communities in the major urban conurbations and resulting tensions."
See also: 'Databank of independent evidence on faith schools' - http://ekklesia.co.uk/research/independent_evidence_faith_schools
'Faith schools and community cohesion', by Simon Barrow - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/10691