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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Government to introduce religious discrimination in appointment of tens of thousands of head teacher and teaching support posts

The Government has quietly slipped into the new Education and Inspections Bill their intention to introduce religious discrimination or preconditions in the appointment of headteachers in the nearly three thousand religious schools that are controlled by local authorities. They are in future to be “appointed specifically to guide religious education in accordance with the tenets of the school’s specified religion”. Applicants for teaching assistants and some other jobs will be subject to “faith commitment” in the 4,000 religious schools that are not controlled by local authorities.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society said: “This is a massive blow for many of the 80,000 teachers and head teachers in religious schools who are not religious and whose promotion prospects have been blighted by the Education minister Lord Adonis’s desire to accommodate every demand of the churches. Even worse is the plight of thousands of poorly paid teaching (or so-called ‘pastoral’) assistants in rural areas where the church school is the only educational employer.

“Lord Adonis told the Lords that these changes followed ‘constructive dialogue that we have had with faith communities’, but he made no mention of unions, or any of the people who would be adversely affected by them. We suspect they have been kept in the dark.

“At the very time the Government is feverishly trying to give the impression that “faith schools” are being inclusive and a force for cohesion, it is quietly closing down employment in them to ‘jobs for the boys’. While Catholic schools are struggling to find suitable head teachers that are even Christian, Lord Adonis is set to impose religious restrictions on thousands of head teacher jobs in church schools controlled by local authorities. Piety will count more than being the best teacher for the job. This is bad for education and outrageously unfair to the tens of thousands of non-religious teachers in such schools whose religious perspective has not until now been relevant.

“We urge the teaching unions to fight this attack on fair employment by the Government and to challenge its application in the courts. It runs contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the EU Employment Anti-discrimination Directive brought into law in the Employment Regulations 2003. Every penny of the salary bill for these jobs is paid for by the public purse and it is disgraceful that the Government should be colluding with the Church of England to introduce this discrimination. The best person for the job should be the one who is appointed. But in future, brilliant headteachers or classroom assistants could well become unemployed if they were not qualified to explain to children the minutiae of the resurrection or transubstantiation.

“Lord Adonis made no commitment about the security of those currently in post. He was speaking in the Education and Inspections Bill (Lords report stage) debate on Tuesday evening, (Hansard Column 737)."


The Society warned about the Church’s intention to increase discrimination in school jobs in a press release issued on 19 July 2006.


Published Fri, 20 Oct 2006