Accord backs union calls for end of faith discrimination in schools

Accord backs union calls for end of faith discrimination in schools

By staff writers
6 Apr 2009

The Accord coalition for inclusive schooling has welcomed plans by the National Union of Teachers to campaign for an end religious discrimination in school admissions.

In a conference motion to be debated on Saturday 11 April, the union argues that “all groups within society should be treated equally within the education system”.

The Chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: “This sends a powerful message about the importance of community cohesion that NUT is highlighting these issues at its conference this week."

He continued: "No one knows better than teachers the necessity of an education system based on equality and mutual respect and we welcome the fact that this debate is taking place.

"As a coalition of religious and non-religious organisations that share NUT’s goal of inclusive schools and balanced religious education, we hope to work closely with them in the campaign”.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: 'Faith schools can't be fully promoting social and community cohesion if their prime responsibility is only to select pupils of a particular faith. Our preference would be that admissions are on the basis of proximity to the school, rather than faith.'

A second union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, will also debate calls for compulsory daily Christian worship to be scrapped when it meets in Liverpool.

Delegates in favour of the change will argue that schools should be able to celebrate values and festivals from all faiths and none.

By law, publicly-funded schools must offer a daily act of worship of a 'broadly Christian' nature. The requirement goes back to the 1944 Education Act, but opponents - including nonconformist Christians - say that the character of worship as a free act of devotion is distorted when it is enforced by the state.

Gareth Lewis, a member of ATL's executive in Wales, says compulsory worship is 'antiquated' and broadly-based civic assemblies are preferable.

He suggests that mandated assemblies have become a 'tick box' exercise aimed at impressing school inspectors.

Accord (http://www.accordcoalition.org.uk/) is a coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning for an end to religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions. The coalition also works for a fair and balanced RE curriculum and the removal of the requirement for compulsory collective worship.

Following a recent publicity drive, Accord has been signing up some 220 new supporters a week, demonstrating huge public concern about the issue of fairness and equality in schooling.

The founding members of the coalition include the ATL, religion and society think-tank Ekklesia and the British Humanist Association.

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