Inquiry urged into faith schools plan

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The Independent Online
<div class="floatbox"><div class="linkbox"><p class="linkindent"><b class="red">Internal links</b></p><p class="linkindent"><a href="">Wealthy people are more likely to go to church</a></p></div></div> The Government was urged yesterday to set up a national inquiry into plans to expand the number of faith-based schools.</p>The call came from Graham Lane, chairman of the Local Government Association's education committee and a senior Labour Party figure, after local education authorities warned they had "deep reservations about a national drive to increase faith schools".</p>Mr Lane said: "We need to have a national inquiry â“ or possibly even a Royal Commission â“ to look at the relationship between church schools and the state sector."</p>The Government outlined plans for a big expansion in the number of faith-based schools in its White Paper on education published in September. It wants faith groups â“ and private companies â“ to be allowed to bid to run new schools. However, the association believes the move would lead to more religious and racial segregation of pupils â“ particularly in inner-city areas. "Multicultural and multiracial societies living close together in urban areas do need to be educated together, rather than separately," Mr Lane said.</p>The Labour-run associationis urging the Government to approve plans for voluntary- controlled faith-based schools only if there is a percentage of pupils from the main faith group and the rest are drawn from the wider community. It wants to put a stop to any new voluntary-aided schools, where the churches â“ in effect â“ retain powers over admissions.</p>The association backs the idea of multifaith schools in which different religious communities combine to run schools and are represented on their governing bodies.</p>Labour backbench MPs are pressing Tony Blair to water down his plans to expand the number of faith-based schools. </p>