THE ACCORD COALITION for Inclusive Education has urged the UK Government’s Department for Education to free England’s state-funded school system of religious discrimination in the interests of creating unity across the country.

The appeal has been made in response to the Department for Education lending its support this week to One Britain One Nation Day, which is taking place this coming Friday (25 June) and is likely to gain particular attention in schools in England. Education in Scotland and Wales is a devolved matter.

In its recent publicity, the Department for Education has spoken of the need to “create a spirit of inclusion with a collective purpose and a common future where we all seek to eliminate hatred, intolerance and discrimination of any kind so that all our people can feel and develop a strong and shared sense of belonging” (p3).

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Rev Stephen Terry, said: “Schools are the state-funded institutions that can do most to promote integration and community cohesion in society. However, their credibility in doing so is greatly hampered by the Department for Education’s persistence in maintaining a school system that is deeply religiously divisive.”

He continued: “Under current legislation, most faith schools in England – over one third of the total number of state funded schools – are permitted to operate religiously segregationist and discriminatory pupil admission arrangements. Non-faith schools are meanwhile required to provide daily worship of a broadly Christian character, despite many staff, pupils and their families not having a shared religious faith.

“If it is truly important to the Department for Education that schools promote national unity, and if it really wants to demonstrate its pride in the diverse society we have become, then it must urgently tackle the religious discrimination that pervades our school system. The ways in which the wide variety of religions and beliefs are currently handled are hopelessly anachronistic and completely at odds with the needs of contemporary Britain.”

The Accord Coalition was launched in 2008 and brings together religious and non-religious organisations who want state-funded schools to be made open and suitable to all, regardless of people or their family’s religious or non-religious beliefs. It campaigns to end religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions, and for all state funded schools to provide PSHE, assemblies and forms of education about religion and belief that boost mutual understanding between those of different beliefs and backgrounds.

* Note: Ekklesia is a co-founder and active supporter of the Accord Coalition.

* Source: Accord Coalition