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Union backs faith school code

A union leader in Wales has backed calls for faith schools "discriminating against potential pupils and staff" to have their state funding pulled. Dr Phillip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Wales, said that state-maintained faith schools have to become more accountable to the taxpayer.

His comments come after a major consultation by the ATL with members on the future of UK faith schools in the 21st century.

The union claimed that faith schools which discounted teacher candidates whose lifestyles are not in accordance with "their ethos", and those who determined the faith of their headteacher, should be denied public funding.

"We need schools which unite the diversity within our communities, not ones that divide pupils and staff on religious grounds,"

said Dr Dixon.

Research by the ATL found that at present faith schools receive state grants for up to 90 per cent of the costs of school buildings and 100 per cent of the running costs. The ATL is calling for:

* the level of autonomy by faith schools over admission and the curriculum to depend on the school promoting community cohesion;

* no extension of rights to be given to faith schools that refuse to employ staff on the basis of their religious beliefs;

* faith schools to minimise segregation and promote community cohesion;

* faith and non-faith schools to work more closely together;

* more rigorous criteria, with monitoring and inspection of the religious education and personal and social education taught in faith schools.

But Mike Clinch, head at St Richard Gwyn RC high school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan, saidJ25 per cent ofJhis pupils were from non-Catholic backgrounds.

"The only staff members who have to be practising members of the faith at this school are the head and the head of RE," he said.

"Only 35 per centJcent of staff here are Catholic. We open our doors to the whole community."

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