The Accord Coalition has responded with both a welcome and a warning to the announcement today concerning the Government's proposal of two education Bills to significantly reform the management and operational freedom of state funded schools.
The chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said: "It is vital that whatever changes are enacted by upcoming legislation that new and existing state schools are required to operate in inclusive ways."
He continued: "It is equally important that greater freedoms must be accompanied by greater monitoring, so that those freedoms are used responsibly and not hijacked by those with extreme views."
Dr Romain added: "All new schools must be required to admit children regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds. All new and existing schools must also provide children with a broad and balanced education, which allows them to make informed choices and sets them up for adult life in our increasingly diverse society. Schools should not be allowed to provide Religious Education that only focuses on a narrow range of beliefs or to fail to provide thorough Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education."
"We are discovering to our cost, the errors of allowing schools to segregate and discriminate on the basis of religion and belief and to provide children with a narrow programme of learning. We must learn from these mistakes to ensure we do not repeat them in future," he said.
"The two Bills will enable the creation of more Academy Schools, to make it easier for parents and other groups to set up their own state funded schools and for schools to have greater freedom over the curriculum they teach," the Accord Coalition chair concluded.
Education reform groups have expressed deep concern about the coalition government's far reaching 'free schools' policy, which many believe will exacerbate inequality in education, as well as producing curriculum confusion.
The Accord Coalition is an network that encompasses religious and non-religious groups who are working for the reform of faith schools in view of their impact both on children who attend and on society at large.
The Christian thinktank Ekklesia, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the British Humanist Association are founder members of Accord, which also includes groups and individuals from Jewish, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds.