Religious leaders, humanists and teachers unite in call for change to faith schools

1 September 2008

A new coalition is calling on the government to stop state-funded faith schools discriminating against students and teachers on the grounds of their beliefs.

Accord, a broad coalition including the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Christian think-tank Ekklesia, was launched on 1 September as a greater number of children than ever returned to state-funded faith schools after the summer holidays.

On the same day, new rules came into force that restrict even further the employment rights of staff in state-funded religious schools. They mean that religious discrimination is allowed against headteachers in voluntary controlled faith schools and against non-teaching staff in voluntary aided faith schools.

Discrimination of this kind in staffing and admissions is illegal in other schools. Such discrimination sends out the wrong message to children, Accord believes: that is acceptable in the UK to discriminate between people because of their faith.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL said: "We need schools which embrace the diversity in our communities, not schools which divide pupils and staff by faith.

"All children - regardless of their religion, culture, and family income - should have equal access to the best possible education in a good local school. Allowing schools to pick and choose pupils is not the best way to achieve this or to create young adults with the confidence and personal skills to live and work in our vibrant multi-cultural society."

Read more about faith schools in ATL's position statement.

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Notes to editors

  1. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) is an independent, registered trade union and professional association, representing approximately 170,000 teachers, headteachers, lecturers and support staff in maintained and independent nurseries, schools, sixth form, tertiary and further education colleges in the United Kingdom.

  2. ATL exists to help members, as their careers develop, through first rate research, advice, information and legal advice.

  3. ATL is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and Education International (EI). ATL is not affiliated to any political party and seeks to work constructively with all the main political parties.

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