The Accord Coalition is a British campaign coalition, launched in 2008, which brings together a wide range of member organisations, both religious and non-religious, who wish to ensure that matters of religion and philosophical conviction in education do not cause problems, such as for society, by undermining community cohesion and the growth of mutual understanding; for children and young people by denying them a broad and balanced education preparing them for adult life in an increasingly diverse society, or for pupils, staff and families more generally, by not properly respecting their rights and autonomy.
Accord maintains a databank of information, which brings together and summarises research about the current policy implications of state funded faith schools and their practices. It also runs an annual award to celebrate those schools that do most to promote mutual understanding and improve community cohesion.
Accord is particularly concerned at the current ability of most state funded faith schools to discriminate against staff, job applicants and children on the grounds of religion, to only provide pupils with instructional Religious Education (RE), and by the wider effects of these freedoms.
Aims and objectives
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Accord does not take a position on the principle of having schools with a religious or philosophical ethos, but instead wants all state funded schools to be made open and suitable for all children of every background, regardless of their parents’ or their own beliefs, and for schools to be as diverse as the local area from which they draw their pupils. Accord believes mutual understanding will best grow through a shared civic life, and considers mutual understanding as vital to the future wellbeing and happiness of society.
Accord is concerned that rather than acting to foster improved cohesiveness, through legislative freedoms, some schools can help to create environments where mistrust between groups can more readily grow, such as by helping to segregate children and staff on the grounds of religion and through providing a narrow curriculum about the beliefs of others.
Accord has four key campaign objectives:
• To prevent discrimination on the basis of religion and belief in pupil admissions and in recruitment and employment of staff in schools
• To ensure that schools follow an objective and balanced syllabus for education about religious and non-religious beliefs to ensure that children grow up with an understanding of the main religion and belief traditions in society
• To replace the widely flouted laws that demand all state schools provide daily Collective Worship, with requirements to provide inclusive assemblies that focus on shared values
• That RE, Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education and Citizenship are brought under a single inspection regime to help ensure they their provision is thorough, broad and balanced
Members and supporters
Accord was founded by organisations including the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association, Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. It also includes among its list of member groups the British Muslims for Secular Democracy, The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and the race equality think tank The Runnymede Trust.
The Chair of the Accord Coalition is Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, the minister of Maidenhead Synagogue. Its supporters include academics, clergy, theologians and politicians from the four largest groupings in parliament.
Notes and references
- Testing Faith', 'Guardian editorial, 2 September 2008
- Religious Rights and Wrongs, The Economist, 4 September 2008
- Accord coalition encourages MPs to back inclusive schooling, Ekklesia website, 29 Jan 2009 
- Accord website