Faith schools should be forced to open their doors to pupils and staff who do not sign up to their ethos, says a new coalition of teachers’ groups and think-tanks.
The new coalition, Accord, says that faith schools – which often out-perform other schools – should not be able to ‘discriminate’ against students and teachers on the grounds of their beliefs.
It includes the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the theological think-tank Ekklesia, and the British Humanist Association.
But critics say that stripping away the religious ethos of faith schools will remove the source of their success.
Writing in the Independent on Sunday, columnist Melanie McDonagh argued: “It will be impossible for such a school to have what is fashionably called a Christian ethos – because, believe it or not, such an ethos is not some sort of free-floating quality which happens to attach itself to a church school.
“It comes from the religion which is not just taught, but practised within it and which, if you take it on its own terms, is meant to help the children to flourish.”
Earlier this year, the Centre for Policy Studies accused the Government of conducting a “witch hunt” targeting faith schools in order to impress the secular lobby.
However, Children’s Minster Kevin Brennan insisted: “Faith schools are a long-established part of the state school system in England.
“Parents should be able to choose the type of education and ethos they want for their children.
“The bottom line is that faith schools are successful, thriving, popular and here to stay. It is down to locally accountable councils and communities themselves, not some campaign group, to decide what sort of schools they want.”