The Accord Coalition has welcomed the findings of a report published yesterday (9 July 2009) examining community cohesion and segregation in Blackburn with Darwen.
The review highlights faith school admissions procedures as one of the causes of segregation.
Its main author is Professor Ted Cantle, who was responsible for the landmark Cantle Report in 2001, following the riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford.
In 2001 Professor Cantle recommended that faith schools open at least 25 per cent of their places to pupils from different backgrounds but after lobbying from religious organisations in 2006, this plan was dropped by the government in favour of a new duty on schools to promote community cohesion.
The new report was commissioned from the Institute of Community Cohesion by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. It found that although the cohesion initiatives undertaken in Blackburn’s schools in accordance with the duty are “positive” and “imaginative”, they are insufficient. It argues that the “level of segregation in schools is high, growing and more extensive than the level of residential segregation would suggest”, with a number of faith schools “a particular issue”.
Although the report recommends that the council challenge “faith schools to reconsider their admission policies in light of the impact on cohesion”, some schools in the town have already made clear that they do not intend to change their polices.
Speaking about the report, Professor Cantle claimed that faith schools in the area remain “automatically a source of division which have to be overcome”. Campaigners for inclusive education argue that the study is yet more evidence of the damage caused by exclusive faith schools.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/6953) said: “While the reasons for segregation are complex, this report makes clear that religiously discriminatory school admissions are part of the problem and that segregation is getting worse.
"It is in the power of the government to stop that discrimination and the Equality Bill gives them a chance to do so. When some faith schools — in Blackburn and elsewhere — flourish by being open to the community, what justification can there be for allowing others to serve only their own?”
The Accord Coalition was launched in September 2008 to bring together religious and non-religious organisations campaigning for an end to religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions.
The coalition also campaigns for a fair and balanced RE curriculum and the removal of the requirement for compulsory collective worship.
Ekklesia is one of the founder members of the Accord Coalition.
Also on Ekklesia: More on faith schools and Accord - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/tags/6953