Schools policy and social segregation

By Jonathan Romain
March 24, 2011

In a recent Guardian article, Warwick Mansell has laid bare the risk of increased social segregation in state schools thanks to a range of reforms proposed by Government that will reduce scrutiny of school admission arrangements (‘Is covert school selection about to mushroom?’, 22 March 2011).

These include the Education Bill’s proposal to remove the responsibility of local authorities to establish a school admission forum and reduce the freedom of the school adjudicator, as well as its plan to slim down the School Admissions Code.

Even though experience shows there are far greater problems with admissions at schools that control their own admissions, the Government is currently giving many more schools this power through an expansion in Academy schools, along with its free school programme. This is doubly alarming as another part of the Bill proposes to stop Ofsted inspecting what steps schools take to promote community cohesion.

Through its eagerness to reduce bureaucracy and give schools greater autonomy, the Government is proposing to take away a range of important protections that stop schools operating in a narrow and exclusive way. Is this wise?

It is not too late to think again and for Parliament to amend the Education Bill so as to retain these important safeguards. Schools should be engine rooms of cohesiveness. Future generations will not thank us if we allow them to entrench social divisions further.

© Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE is chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education.

This article appears as a letter in the Guardian newspaper, 24 march 2011. Ekklesia is a founding member of the Accord Coalition.

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