Schools report shows need to end religious discrimination, says coalition

By staff writers
October 13, 2008

According to Accord, the coalition concerned about the way faith schools currently operate and its impact on society, the new report by the Schools Adjudicator highlights the dangers of discriminatory admission policies and lack of regulation.

Accord's member bodies, who include the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, the teaching union ATL and the British Humanist Association say that in this respect a number of schools and other educational bodies, including religious foundation ones, seem to have been acting with lack of ethical rigour and against the public interest.

"We urge government to tighten procedures so that schools are not allowed to pursue exclusive agendas and children are not discriminated against," Accord chair, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said this week.

The Schools Adjudicator, Philip Hunter, has revealed that half of all school admissions authorities - mainly local councils and faith schools - are breaching admissions rules designed to make sure that all children have a fair chance to attend their chosen school.

Mr Hunter emphasised that the problems were the result of "administrative confusion" and were not intentional, although in some cases there were serious problems such as schools charging a fee for admission.

Responding to the news the Liberal Democrat's schools spokesman said: "It is shocking so many schools are breaching the admissions code. Cases where schools are asking questions about a pupil's background are totally unacceptable. It is parents who should be choosing schools and not schools cherry-picking children."

Speaking after details of the adjudicator's interim report had been announced, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: "We at Accord are concerned about any schools and local authorities that fail to meet the demands of the admissions code, but just as importantly we think that the code itself needs to be changed."

He added: "It is deeply worrying that so many admissions authorities are breaking these important rules and little surprise that schools with control of their own admissions find it more difficult to keep track with the legislation. While it is reassuring to know that these breaches do not appear to be intentional, school admissions will not be truly fair until an end is put to religious discrimination in admissions."

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