Woolf Commission recommends greater diversity in faith schools


Faith schools should accept children from communities other than own and teach about other religions, a commission on religion in British life stated today.

It says that state-aided schools and bodies responsible for admissions should reduce the number of children selected for faith schools on the basis of their religion.

It also calls for a compulsory religious education curriculum applicable to all state-aided schools which would teach children about the diversity of belief in the UK.

The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life was set up two years ago by the Cambridge-based Woolf Institute, which studies relations between Christians, Muslims and Jews.

The commission was chaired by a senior legal figure Baroness Butler-Sloss and its 20 members included an Orthodox rabbi and academic, Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon.

Its wide-ranging recommendations include calls for national and civic events that reflect religious diversity and for the next Coronation ceremony to have a pluralist character rather than be simply a Church of England event.

While not opposed to faith schools, the report states that “selection by religion segregates children not only according to religious heritage but also frequently, and in effect, by ethnicity and socio-economic background.”

Bodies responsible for school admissions should “take measures to reduce selection on grounds of religion in state-funded schools”.

The government should introduce a statutory requirement for all state-funded schools to teach about “religious and non-religious worldviews.” Its content should be “broad and inclusive in a way that reflects the diversity of religion and belief in the UK and the subject should have the same status as other humanities subjects.”

It also wants the Ministry of Justice to publish guidelines to ensure that religious tribunals such as Batei Din or sharia courts comply with equality

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