Many teachers can find themselves blocked from certain positions in faith schools because they are non-believers or of the 'wrong' faith. This means that suitably qualified teachers can be discriminated against in a third of all state schools.
Despite discrimination of grounds of religion and belief being unlawful, Equality Act exceptions allow schools with a religious character to require their teaching staff to adhere to a particular religion.
Voluntary controlled religious schools (often Church of England schools) can apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting one fifth of teaching staff, including the Head Teacher.
In voluntary aided religious schools (often Roman Catholic, but also sometimes Church of England and minority faiths), the governing body employs the staff and may apply a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting all teachers. In addition, all teachers can be disciplined or dismissed for conduct which is 'incompatible with the precepts of the school's religion.
The situation in academies and free schools with a religious character will depend on the school's funding agreement, but generally speaking these will also have the ability to place religious requirements on teaching positions.
We consider the degree of discrimination legally permitted on the grounds of religion and belief against teachers and other school staff is unreasonable and unacceptable.
If some faith schools can maintain a religious ethos with a 20% limit on reserved positions, there can be no justification for the provisions in the Schools Standards and Framework Act which allow schools to use a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting all teachers.
However, we don't think any suitably qualified teachers should be blocked from teaching positions in publicly-funded schools on the basis of their beliefs or religious activities.
In England and Wales the relevant statute is the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 Sections 58 and 60, as amended; in Scotland, the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.
- The impact of faith schools on teacher discrimination (PDF, 309 Kb)
2009 paper from the NSS.