Written by Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, MBE, Chair of the Accord Coalition. Accord is a multi-faith campaigning group seeking to promote tolerance and the recognition of different values and beliefs. This article first appeared in issue 111 of the SEA journal “Education Politics” available from the SEA at


It has been clear for some time that the Coalition Government is not listening to the mounting concerns expressed by the Accord Coalition and others over the dangers inherent in the rush to create Academies and Free Schools. By creating a growing percentage of state schools that can totally control their own curriculum and admissions procedure, there is a danger that – although some will use those powers wisely – others will use them to ghettoise the children along faith lines to teach a syllabus that limits the horizons of pupils and fails to instill a sense of shared citizenship in them.

We have expended much effort talking to Ministers from both Parties that form the Coalition Government, in addition to contacts with the Party’s spokespersons when they were in opposition – but they have so far been unwilling to even acknowledge the dangers inherent in their policies, let alone introduce any of the safeguards that we have suggested such as making a tolerant and inclusive RE syllabus obligatory. The removal of OFSTED’s role in inspecting community cohesion is an ominous sign that the Coalition is not concerned with social divisions and does not wish to check religious and other groups preaching hatred

It now seems that there is no likelihood of any legislative changes until after the next general election We have therefore intensified our conversations with the Labour opposition in order to help shape their policies. We have also begun a dialogue with the Church of England – which oversees the vast majority of faith schools in Britain – so as to encourage those within the Church who wish to make their schools more inclusive.


 David Ward – MP for Bradford, one of Britain’s most ethnically and religiously diverse cities and the centre of race riots in July 2001 – has highlighted the continuing need to bridge the city’s social divide by becoming one of ACCORD’s Distinguished Supporters.

Mr Ward told the ACCORD coalition “In places such as Bradford, segregation in the school system can serve to undermine social cohesion. Schools should be at the centre of their community and draw pupils from across the community they serve. They should be the place where parents mix at the school gates and children mix and learn together. To help achieve this, state schools should be open to all children, regardless of their family’s beliefs, and on this basis I fully support the aims of ACCORD”.

 Before being elected to Parliament for the Bradford East constituency in May 2010, Mr Ward, who sits as a Liberal Democrat, served as a Bradford City councillor for twenty six years. He joins Accord’s growing list of Distinguished Supporters, who come from a wide variety of different political, religious and belief backgrounds.


 It has been known for some time that the faith school sector admits more pupils from affluent backgrounds, and fewer from deprived ones, than the national average. The Guardian newspaper has done a detailed statistical analysis to try to establish whether this discrepancy is because faith schools are located disproportionately in more ‘well heeled’ areas.

 Their research, published in the Guardian of 6th March, shows that in fact most faith schools admit a smaller proportion of pupils in receipt of free school meals than both the average for schools in their local authority area, and of such pupils than are present in area covered by the first three digits of their schools respective post code.

 The Guardian’s findings make devastating reading, and indicate that religious selection in pupil admissions not only leads to religious and thus ethnic segregation, but is also leading to greater socio-economic segregation and inequality.