Teaching unions voice concern at plans to create more faith schools

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The Independent Online

Plans for a sharp rise in the number of faith schools have put the Government on a collision course with teaching unions. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, promised yesterday to sweep away "unnecessary barriers" which prevented non-Christian groups from providing state education.

About 6,850 of Britain's 21,000 state schools have a "religious character". Most are Anglican or Roman Catholic but there are 37 Jewish, seven Muslim and two Sikh schools. The Government's plans could lead to more than 100 independent Muslim schools joining the state system.

Mr Balls said a proposed Christian-Muslim academy in Oldham was a model for co-operation between different faiths, saying it would make a "valuable contribution towards community cohesion and integration".

But John Dunford, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, warned: "The inherent danger is that more schools will become monocultural."

Mary Bousted, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, also questioned whether taxpayers' money should be used to "nurture young people in a particular faith".