A school publicly funded by the British government that claims to adhere to a "Christian ethos" has won an inclusivity award for the first time.
According to Joanna Moorhead of The Guardian, Walthamslow Academy, which is located in east London, received a prestigious award for inclusivity. It's the first time a school with a Christian ethos has received the honor.
"Walthamstow shows how state-funded faith schools and schools with a religious ethos can both be true to themselves and serve the wider community that funds them," Rabbi Jonathan Romain, who chaired the award's judging panel, said.
Moorhead reported that the school, which was founded in 2006 and has 1,000 students, was part of the United Learning Trust group of academies and independent schools. The British government highlighted the difference between "faith schools" and regular schools.
"In this Order, 'the relevant religion or religious denomination' means the religion or religious domination in accordance with those tenets education is provided at the school or the school is conducted," a British government document stated in describing schools with a religious character.
According to Moorhead, the prestigious honor has prompted the hopes of both faith schools and "those of a religious character" would be able to welcome students of all backgrounds. One of Walthamslow Academy's students included 16-year-old Zeynel, who is in year 11.
"I'm Muslim, and coming here has given me friends from all sorts of backgrounds - people I'd never have met otherwise," Zeynel said.
Walthamstow Academy Headteacher Emma Skae told Moorhead that her school focused on creating a safe environment where different faiths were welcomed.
"We don't just tolerate different beliefs here, because that's a passive response," Skae said. "We encourage our pupils to talk about and share aspects of their faith, and we're very proud to welcome pupils of all faiths and none."
Based on demographics, Moorhead reported that 36 percent of the students were Christian, while another 36 percent were Muslim. As for the rest of the students, Walthamslow Academy had 13 percent of students who practiced no religion, 4 percent were Hindu, and 0.5 percent were Jewish.
"We only gather that data once pupils are in the school," Skae said. "We don't ask anything about faith in our selection process, which is done by how far an applicant lives from the school."
According to Moorhead, the organization behind the Accord Inclusivity Award, the Accord Coalition, is campaigning to end state-funded faith schools due to "religious discrimination." The award, which has been given out annually since 2010, has previously gone to community schools.
"This is a template," Romain said of Walthamstow's success. "Too many are narrow and blinkered and, as a religious person myself, I feel religion shouldn't be creating environments where there's an 'us' and 'them' culture."