The Accord Coalition – which links both religious and secular organisations campaigning for inclusive education – has greeted the new Education Bill with concern, though it has welcomed an attempt to limit religious discrimination against teachers in some Academy faith schools.
The chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, commented: "We are worried that some schools are to be declared exempt from section 5 inspections without a definition being provided as to what criteria renders schools exempt.
"Schools should be transparent and accountable, especially at a time when some faith schools in particular have an agenda that militates against social cohesion and encourages isolationist attitudes amongst pupils," said Dr Romain.
"However," he continued, "we are pleased that the Government has taken on board the strong representations we made to them about the Academies Act allowing voluntary controlled and foundation faith schools that become Academies to be able to discriminate against all their teachers on the grounds of religion."
"The Bill proposes to place a cap on the level of religious discrimination permitted against teachers in these schools to one in five of their teacher posts, which is the same limit in existing voluntary controlled and foundation faith schools. We are worried that the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to lift this cap in future, and we remains resolutely opposed to any religious discrimination in schools. However, we are pleased that the Government is attempting to address one of the negative consequences of its Academies Act," said the Accord chair.
The Accord Coalition is an alliance of religious and non-religious groups seeking inclusive schooling and the reform of faith schools to ensure equal access, fair treatment and opportunity for all.
Its founding members are the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and the British Humanist Association - along with individual and corporate supporters from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and other backgrounds.