Inspection of community cohesion in schools sidelined

By staff writers
31 Mar 2011

The Accord Coalition says it is "deeply disappointed" that parliament will not look at Education Bill amendments to keep schools open to the whole community.

The House of Commons Bill Committee considering the Government’s current Education Bill has decided this afternoon (31 March 2011) not to accept for debate proposals that would have safeguarded the promotion of community cohesion in schools.

The Bill proposes to relieve Ofsted from inspecting schools on the duty to promote such cohesion - a significant measure introduced by the previous Government to address widespread public concern about the growth of single-faith schools and the dangers of children being effectively segregated by belief or cultural background.

Campaigners point out that the irony of the situation is that the Prime Minister himself gave a major speech last month in Munich, focusing on the importance of confronting extremism and promoting a genuine sense of citizenship.

"The failure to maintain Ofsted's duty to monitor community cohesion in schools, not only lays bare a major inconsistency in Government policy on education and faith schools, but it also undermines attempts to ensure that children from different religious and cultural traditions grow up in greater harmony with each other," said a spokesperson for Accord, which works for inclusive schooling.

The chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, declared: "We urge the Government to think again and to retain this important protection. Schools should be engine rooms of cohesiveness. Future generations will not thank us if we allow them to entrench social divisions further."

The Accord Coalition was launched in 2008 and campaigns to end religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions, and for all state maintained schools to provide Personal, Social, Health and Economic education and assemblies plus Religious Education that teaches children about the wide variety of religions and beliefs in society.

Its growing list of members and supporters includes the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, the British Humanist Association, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the racial justice think-tank The Runnymede Trust. It also has members from the four largest groupings in parliament.

[Ekk/3]

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