A chance for more fairness in faith schools

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Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, says that the Christian think-tank "is delighted to be a founding member of the new coalition, Accord, which seeks to reform faith schools through fair admissions policies, equal employment rights for staff (regardless of their beliefs), a balanced curriculum, a consistent inspection regime and assemblies which reflect the true diversity of belief and culture."

Barrow continued: "The fact that faith schools are here to stay, which the government has reiterated, is precisely what makes policies to promote fairness and inclusion vital. By practicing selection on grounds of belief in admissions and employment, some are given advantage over others. This cannot be right. Nor is it what the public want, according to polling."

"What we need is not the same old tired pro- and anti-faith schools debate, but a fresh approach based on actual practices rather than dogma or favouritism – a voice concerned with the needs of pupils, schools and communities, with community cohesion and inclusive schooling. This is what the broad Accord coalition is wanting to create."

Ekklesia's other co-director, Jonathan Bartley, who has personal experience as a governor and parent, said: "Reforming admissions policies would be a good place to start in stopping discrimination. There are some faith schools that are 90% or even 100% funded publicly and yet they only cater for, or prioritise, 5 per cent of the population."

"The case for schooling that builds bridges rather than boxes, is one which can unite people of different beliefs and backgrounds - including a growing number of Christians. By seeking to control admissions in schools which are funded almost entirely by the taxpayer, the Church is seen to be a self-serving club rather than a body fully committed to care for the community around it."

Accord ("Believing in children, learning together") will be launched on 1 September 2008.