Accord and faith schools

The Economist published an article on the current Government policy discussion on the establishment of more single faith schools, and mentions a countervailing movement by an organisation called Accord (“believing in children, learning together”).

Interestingly, Accord is not calling for secular education (although supporters include humanists and secularists). Instead, it wants to develop the role of faith in education for all. Meanwhile, it calls for the removal of positive discrimination that allows single-faith schools to favour their own kind in pupil, teacher and even ancillary staff selection.

In Northern Ireland, this form of favouritism is a long-established exception to equality legislation here. I have to say, I cannot see the argument that a church’s ethos is threatened by the non-adherent bus driver or floor cleaner.

It is refreshing to see those outside Northern Ireland recognise that placing children in a single-faith school is the least helpful way of encouraging cohesion in society. Alex Kennedy (Accord Coalition Coordinator) makes a convincing case: “The more Britain becomes a multi-faith society, the more critical it is that children are brought together rather than segregated.”

Within Accord, what interested me more are the statements put forward by religious representatives. As in the USA, the separation of church and state does not need to beget a non-religious society; it’s a question of how best to accommodate religious and ethnic diversity while achieving societal cohesion. Separating individuals at the earliest age appears to be the wrong way to go about this!

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