Government warned against potential damage caused by faith school discrimination

The Accord Coalition is urging the government to ensure that faith schools aren’t given free reign to create religious discrimination

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has warned the government not to overlook the damaging social and political costs that would be incurred if it allowed faith schools to cause greater religious discrimination and segregation.

The caution has been offered in response to comment in the House of Commons this week from the new education secretary, Gavin Williamson, that he will be looking ‘closely’ at whether to drop the government’s policy that limits faith free schools from not religiously selecting more than half of their pupils.

The education secretary offered his comment in a response to a plea from the Conservative backbench MP, Sir Edward Leigh, to enact a 2017 Conservative manifesto commitment to scrap the 50% cap.

The cap had been introduced by the Conservative led government back in 2010 and purposely maintained by the majority Conservative government under David Cameron after the 2015 general election.

The government decided against scrapping the cap in April 2018 after consultation and when doing so became associated as one of a number of unpopular policies that seriously undermined the Conservative’s performance during the 2017 general election campaign.

An opinion poll in May 2017 conducted by Populus and commissioned by Accord found a startling 80% of voters preferred that the cap be maintained, rather than dropped.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry said: “Segregating children and young people according to their religious and ethnic background seriously and inevitably damages community cohesion. The last thing our increasingly divided country needs is for government policy to add to that division.

“We urge the government to ignore siren calls to turn the clock back, and instead encourage greater mixing in schools, making sure that existing faith schools are completely religiously inclusive and non-discriminatory.

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“Neither current nor future generations will thank us if we bequeath a legacy of greater fragmentation and division.”

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