By Jennifer Sprinks
Community cohesion expert Ted Cantle has welcomed the Church of England's promise to boost integration in its schools, but urging other faiths to follow suit.
Ted Cantle, chair of the Institute of Community Cohesion and associate director at the Improvement & Development Agency, said the move echoed a recommendation he himself made in his 2001 community cohesion report.
'This is excellent news,' he said. 'I hope other faith schools, as well as schools that are not faith-based, adopt a similar policy to allow for more mixed intakes.
'We live in a multi-cultural country in which children have no experience of multi-culturalism or interest in understanding other faiths.
'This should create more choice and possibilities for children, and hopefully councils will exert some leverage [on local education authorities] to encourage them to be more proactive in widening choices to encourage integration. The laissez-faire approach is not good enough anymore.'
Tahir Alam, chair of the education committee at the Muslim Council of Britain said: 'We welcome the change and would like to do this in Muslim schools too, however the situation is different because state funding provisions for admissions are lower.
'There are very few places in our schools because of high demand. The funding for admissions would need to increase to allow flexibility.'
The government's keenness to open faith schools came under attack from Martin Rogers, co-ordinator of the Children's Services Network, however.
'Before we create an abundance of faith schools we should look at what contributes to their success and look at extending this to all schools,' he said.
Roughly one third of all mainstream state schools have religious ties and the vast majority of these are from the major Christian denominations.
>> 4,646 Church of England schools
>> 2,041 Roman Catholic schools.
Other faiths include
>> 37 Jewish
>> 8 Muslim
>> 2 Sikh schools.