Campaign aims to end religious selection by state schools


All state-funded schools should be open to all children, regardless of their parents’ religion, according to the Fair Admissions Campaign.

The Campaign seeks to bring equity to a system that it says should be a beacon of fairness, yet is mired in discrimination. The campaign focuses solely on the issue of religious selection in admissions in state schools in England and Wales, and its consequences in terms of religious, racial and ethnic, and social and economic segregation.

The Campaign was launched on the back of three findings announced in each of the three areas in which faith-based admissions have discriminatory effects: racial discrimination, socio-economic discrimination and religious discrimination.

Professor Ted Cantle CBE, who commissioned and published The Cantle Report by the Home Office after 2001’s summer of race riots, said: "One of the key issues which the world now faces is how we live together in an era of globalised and diverse communities. It must be clear – especially from recent events – that so many of the tensions and conflicts in the UK and elsewhere are based upon faith and ethnic divisions.

"Our communities remain riven by the differences which we should be learning to set aside. Religiously selective schools cannot of course be held solely responsible for these problems, but they do underpin a system in which children learn that they are “different” and in which everyday contact is denied. They do not build friendships with “others” and the separation of children within schools reinforces wider divisions, as parents do not meet at the school gate and families are not drawn together through shared sporting and cultural events."

He went on to say: "In a time of growing extremism, we need to recognise that religiously selective schools are an anachronistic bastion of a divided society. And instead of moving towards the integration of our communities, we are introducing more divides through a growing number of minority faith schools with selective admission policies."

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education and Minister of Maidenhead Synagogue, said: "Whether you are religious or secular, a key value is fairness and we can all sign up to “Thou shalt not discriminate between one child and another” – yet that is exactly what happens with current admission procedures: we not only divide children according to their belief systems, but teach them a terrible lesson about us and them and at the very age when we should be promoting inclusivity and equality. It is the wrong message and at precisely the wrong time."

Jeremy Rodell, who is Chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC), which last year took the first ever judicial review against a proposed new school because of religious selection, said: "There is intense competition for places at good schools, especially in London. Yet locally we’ve found that over a third of primary school places are at schools applying some degree of faith-based selection. And even new schools to apply religious discrimination to up to 100% of their places.

"So some parents have a far wider choice than others, and our schools are more segregated than the areas they cover. That cannot be right. We need a strong and united national voice working with local campaigners on this issue. The time has come to end this unfair - and internationally unusual – practice one and for all."

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