Sunday, 6 March 2011

No faith in Richmond's schools

A coalition of religious groups has joined calls for the council to ditch its plans to give one of two new secondary schools to the Catholic Church. Accord, which includes British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Hindu Academy and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches among its members, has spoken out on the subject. The South West London Humanists group expressed concerns after Richmond Council approved the plans in December, saying they were about “exclusivity and privilege” and went against its policies on choice and diversity.

Paul Pettinger, spokesman for Accord, said: “We are pleased to give our support to this campaign. “It is only right to insist both of the two new secondary schools proposed by Richmond Council are high quality inclusive schools, suitable for children from all backgrounds in the borough, rather than one of them becoming a faith school that will be able to discriminate on the grounds of religion and belief in its admissions and employment policies, and only provide a narrow education about the beliefs of others.” Richmond is due to get two new schools by 2015.

Mr Pettinger said Accord’s campaign was not “anti-religious” but opposed discrimination against pupils. He said: “The long-term interests of our society are not best served if we use the school system to segregate our children on narrow religious lines.” Richmond Council leader Lord True said many Catholic people lived in the borough and paid council tax but were forced to send their children to secondary schools outside Richmond. He said: “The borough is losing those pupils from the local education economy, and that’s not good for the way we look overall.