A faith school was forced to change its admissions policy yesterday for fear that it breached anti-discrimination laws:
“The Jewish Free School (JFS) in London has removed from its admissions criteria a clause favoring ethnically Jewish children after the school was accused of breaking state anti-discrimination laws, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, the top Jewish state school was accused of discrimination after it denied a place to a child who did not meet the definition of Jewish set by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
Sacks, who is the school’s religious authority, had stipulated that applicants must have an ethnically Jewish mother in order to be accepted into the school. The mother of the child in question, who heads the school’s English department, had converted to Judaism under supervision of Israel’s chief rabbi.”
While this was an intra-religious dispute, is does raise the question of how far such schools should be allowed to decide their own policy on these matters.
“Following the accusation, chief schools arbitrator Philip Hunter ruled that the JFS had not violated race relation laws as it was following religious, rather than racial, criteria.
Nevertheless, he ordered the school to remove from its admissions rules a sub-clause giving preference to children with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent, calling it “indirectly discriminating,” The Guardian said.”
Religious schools are generally popular with parents because they are seen as creating a good learning environment for children. Should parents be denied this option if they want it? Nor is the religion of the school necessarily imprinted on the child. I went to a Church of England primary and did not leave it a Church of England boy, and plenty of my friends were non-religious.
However, I can see some sense in the opposing point of view. Children do usually benefit from mixing with children from other religions, since such religions then do not seem quite so alien in later life. A religious school might put more pressure on its pupils to behave in a particular way, and some faith schools are susceptible to extremist teachings and ideology.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Religion