The Accord Coalition for inclusive schooling is urging members of the House of Lords to support an amendment at the Education Bill’s report stage.
The proposal from crossbench peer and Accord supporter, Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead, seeks to retain Ofsted’s current duty to inspect how schools promote community cohesion.
As things stand, the Education Bill proposes to remove Ofsted’s community cohesion inspection duty, which only came into effect in 2007 and is the principal means that government uses to ensure that state funded schools try to promote better cohesion.
The duty was introduced in part to help address widespread public concern about how schools, and particularly single faith schools, could act in ways that undermine social cohesion.
Baroness Flather first tabled her amendment in June 2011 for consideration at the Bill’s Committee Stage, but parliamentary procedures meant that it could not be voted on.
However, the amendment received support from peers on both the government and opposition benches, including the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, The Rt Rev John Packer - who, like other Lords, urged that the amendment be brought back at the Bill’s report stage so it could be put to a vote.
The chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, commented: "Ofsted’s duty to inspect how schools promote community cohesion provides an important safeguard, and if taken away, risks empowering those who would mitigate against social cohesion in our schools."
Dr Romain added: "It would also be especially unwise to get rid of Ofsted’s duty at this current time, as state funded schools are being given far more freedom and autonomy, many are being inspected less frequently, while new and untested education providers are coming into the state sector through the Free Schools programme."
"Schools are not just about learning facts, but also about children interacting in harmony. In view of the mix of faiths and cultures in Britain today, it is vital for the social health of society that community cohesion remains a priority. Accord therefore urges Peers to support Baroness Flather’s amendment, for the good of both current and future generations," he concluded.
* Accord's briefing (.*PDF Adobe Acrobat document): http://accordcoalition.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Accord-Coalitio...