Segregation in schools is divisive policy

PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 April 2018


Bigotry should be nipped in the bud wherever it raises its ugly head.

Labour’s alleged failure to do enough to tackle antisemitism dominated the headlines for weeks. The time is now ripe for a debate on the dangers posed by Theresa May’s plan to increase religious segregation in schools.

The plan, first announced in 2016, will allow schools funded by taxpayers to refuse to teach any child if their parent is not of the right religion. Imagine if a GP refused to treat a patient on this basis! It will remove the current requirement that at least half of a faith school’s intake is chosen without reference to religious belief.

There is overwhelming evidence that religious selection in schools promotes racial division and segregation in our communities.

Mrs May’s plan could lead to mono-faith schools where children leave at 18 without ever engaging with someone outside their own ethnic or religious bubble.

The troubles in Northern Ireland show where this can lead, not to mention conflicts around the world fueled by religious discord. To her credit Justine Greening, the then Secretary of State, was persuaded by argument from Humanists UK and others to abandon the plan.

However, she was effectively forced to quit the government in January. Her replacement Damian Hinds, like Mrs May, makes no secret of his strong religious convictions.

Following intense lobbying by Catholic leaders he has reinstated the plan. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has also welcomed the move.

Last May saw publication of a Populus survey commissioned by the Accord Coalition.

The coalition brings together educationalists and representatives from the left and the right, and from all faiths and beliefs, in a campaign against religious segregation in schools.

Of all those surveyed four out of five opposed religious selection. This included two out of three Catholic, just over half of Muslim and almost half of Jewish respondents.

Anyone concerned about the importance of building a tolerant cohesive community, where children of all backgrounds grow up learning and playing together, should oppose

Mrs May’s divisive plan, whatever their religion, belief or political allegiance.

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