A Church of England school was amongst three to be given a prestigious new award for inclusivity today.
Balshaw’s Church of England High School in Leyland, Lancashire was a runner up along with the Anglo-European School in Essex, with the overall winner of the Accord Award being Manorside Primary School in North London.
The award, created by the Accord Coalition which campaigns for more inclusive schools, was presented today (1 March) by Baroness Kishwer Falkner who complimented the winner on its values and ethos.
“I was impressed by the energetic and cheerful way Manorside went about its work of educating and integrating its interesting and varied community, particularly the way it saw its multi-ethnic base not as a problem but as an opportunity to widen the knowledge and experience of its children. An obvious winner” she said.
Among the activities of the school remarked on by the judges were a refugee week, which involved parents, refugee speakers from Afghanistan, Ethiopian and Sierra Leone and a talk from a school governor who had escaped Nazi persecution. Its links with local Jewish, Roman Catholic and community schools, its ‘buddying’ system, induction procedures and open community admissions arrangements, complemented as “excellent” by Ofsted, were also singled out for praise.
The school also runs a language of the month initiative in which ‘language ambassadors’ teach their peers basic words in the featured language, and where the register is answered in that language. Governors and teachers represent a wide range of linguistic, ethnic and belief backgrounds and assemblies a wide range of religious and non-religious themes, with the involvement of staff, parents and outside speakers.
It also has a broad RE syllabus which covers a broad range of beliefs, including partnerships with complimentary schools, local arts groups and religious organisations.
The Chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, praised all the finalists: “At a time when some schools are hitting the headlines for the divisive nature of their religious syllabus or their discriminatory admissions procedures, it is good to highlight those who promote inclusivity and tolerance. These are the schools which will ensure the social health of 21st century Britain and which will help the next generation to grow up at ease with itself.”
The panel of judges was a diverse mix of figures from former bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Holloway, to humanist Polly Toynbee.
Toynbee said: "Schools deserve to be recognised for the efforts they make to give a balanced education on religion. The best schools open children's eyes to the array of systems of belief and encourage them put their own beliefs into a rational perspective. This prize celebrates those who do it well, often under religious pressures on many fronts."
The judges also included the former Secretary of State for Education Lord (Kenneth) Baker. “I warmly support the Accord Award for Inclusivity – which also has All-Party support – because it recognises the importance of inclusiveness particularly in faith schools in our education system” he said.
The Accord Coalition was launched in early September 2008 to bring together religious and non-religious organisations campaigning for an end to religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions.
The coalition also campaigns for a fair and balanced RE curriculum and the removal of the requirement for compulsory collective worship but does not take a position for or against faith schools in principle. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association and Ekklesia are members of the Accord Coalition.
The Accord Awards were launched in September 2009 to mark the first birthday of the Accord Coalition.
The judges for the awards are Lord (Kenneth) Baker, former Secretary of State for Education; Baroness (Kishwer) Falkner, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Justice; The Rt Revd Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh; Professor Christopher Rowland, Biblical scholar, University of Oxford; Polly Toynbee, journalist and social commentator. Applications were welcomed from all state funded schools.