The European Commission has said it will investigate the legality of the laws that give faith schools in England and Wales the ability to ‘discriminate’ in the employment of teachers on religious grounds. This follows a formal complaint from Accord Coalition founding member, the British Humanist Association.
According to a statement from Accord, the Commission confirmed that UK law ‘raises questions’ about its conformity with legalisation of the European Union, and that it will be contacting the UK government for further clarification.
Under current laws, more than one-third of state-funded faith schools can demand that one fifth of their teachers be of the school’s faith, including teachers who will not teach Religious Education or have any pastoral duties.
Meanwhile, all other state-funded faith schools and all independent faith schools can apply this strict religious test to all their teacher posts. This latter group includes all Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faith schools.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Accord chairman, said, ‘We oppose all religious discrimination in the employment and recruitment of teachers on a matter of principle’.
His comments came as Prime Minister David Cameron and education secretary Michael Gove announced that a further 102 free schools would open, from 2013 onwards.
Free schools are one of the Government’s flagship educational ventures. Already 24 free schools opened in 2011, and 50 or so expected to open this month. Of the 102 new free schools, 33 are set to have a religious character.
The majority of existing state-funded faith schools are Christian. But, of the newly announced batch of free schools, five will be Sikh, three Jewish and three Muslim.