Church schools policy 'un-Christian'

London, UK - Oct 3, 2006 Responding to the latest statement from the Church of England on admissions policy for faith schools, the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia has said that the Church’s stance is “wholly inadequate” and that “using church-going as a way of assigning publicly-funded school places is wrong and un- Christian in principle.”

It says that ‘a Christian school’ would be one especially concerned for disadvantaged children in society, not for the special advantage of church members.

The chair of the C of E Board of Education, the Rt Rev Dr Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth, has written to Education Secretary Alan Johnson to say that all new Church of England schools should have at least a quarter of admission places available to non-Christians but Parliament should not expect the same commitment from other faith communities.

But Ekklesia says that the heart of this policy is still discriminatory, and that it is nonsensical to claim that it promotes social cohesion and inclusivity to allow a range of religious schools to practice a variety of admissions policies with religious observance as a criterion.

Says Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley: “This is a gesture towards social and educational inclusion in the face of an overall policy which is, at heart, designed to privilege church-goers over others in publicly funded schools. This is wholly inadequate. In our view it is un-Christian for Christians to seek to give themselves advantages of this kind. Self- interest is the opposite of what the Gospel is about.”

The think tank advocates a radical change of direction. Explains Mr Bartley: “A truly 'Christian school' would be one that seeks to be open to all – and which pays particular attention to the needs of marginalized and poorer communities. Using church- going as a way of assigning state school places is wrong in principle.”

Ekklesia also points out that remarkably, the Board of Education does not know how many of its schools actually operate discriminatory admissions policies.