Voluntary Sector: Protests over faith schools

Coalition set up by BHA begins its campaign against state-funded religious schools.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) will help run a number of 'targeted campaigns' opposing state-funded faith schools after setting up a coalition to campaign on the issue.

The coalition, called Accord, comprises religious groups, humanists, trade unions and human rights campaigners, including the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and The Socialist Education Association.

Accord believes state-funded schools should operate admissions policies that take no account of pupils' or their parents' religion or beliefs.

The group wants to galvanise public support through the media and has also planned a lobbying offensive in early 2009 when a new equality bill is due to be introduced.

'We are planning to use our media profile to increase and diversify our supporter base, and to refocus the faith schools debate on the issue of discrimination,' said Accord coalition co-ordinator Alex Kennedy.

He identified two key target groups - potential supporters from a wide variety of backgrounds and key decisionmakers in government. 'We will run targeted campaigns using internal comms to encourage existing supporters of Accord members to support Accord themselves,' he added.

The BHA's director of education and public affairs Andrew Copson said a key challenge would be communicating the organisation's work to a wider audience.

'Opposition is very widespread but in the press it is polarised. Our aim will be to continue to reach out to all groups and get across the breadth of opposition,' said Copson.

The group will call on Children's Secretary Ed Balls to stop state-funded faith schools discriminating against students and teachers on the grounds of their beliefs.

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