Government approves yet more religious free schools just days after faith school admissions announcement

Government approves yet more religious free schools just days after faith school admissions announcement September 28, 2016

From the BHA:

Take action! The principle of integrated education is under attack like never before in this country following the Government’s announcement that it will introduce a new generation of state schools that can religiously discriminate against children for all of their places. We are encouraging everyone to write to their MPs to speak out, and we’ve provided a facility through which it’s possible to do so.

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Education Secretary Justine Greening

In line with its ambition to deliver 500 new free schools by 2020, the Government has given the green light to 11 new religious schools in its latest wave of 77 free school approvals. The schools are the first to be approved since the Government announced that it will move to scrap the requirement that new ‘faith’ schools keep at least half of their places open to local children, irrespective of religion or belief. If these plans go ahead, all 11 schools will be able to religiously select 100% of their places. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has stated that the latest free school approvals are yet another sign of the Government’s backward approach to improving integration in the education system.

Of the 11 religious schools given approval, nine are either Church of England or Christian in character. They are:

  • Derby Cathedral School, a Church of England secondary
  • A Level Sixth Form School, Bury St Edmunds, a Church of England school for pupils aged 16 to 19
  • The Trinity College, an all-through Christian school in Colchester
  • Bishop Arden Church of England Free School, a secondary in Hillingdon
  • Emmanuel Community School, a Christian primary school in Waltham Forest
  • Cathedral Free School, a Church of England primary in Liverpool
  • Cathedral Enterprise School, a Church of England secondary in Bristol
  • East Village C of E Academy, a primary school in Swindon
  • Middle Wichel CE (Primary) Academy also in Swindon

In addition, two new Hindu schools have been approved, the Avanti Leicester School and the Avanti Brent School. Both are being set up by the Avanti Schools Trust which currently operates five other existing Hindu schools in England.

The approval of these new religious schools comes just days after the Government announced the removal of the so-called ‘50% cap’ on religious selection, meaning that both new and existing free schools may soon be able to religiously discriminate for all of their places when previously they have only been able to do so for up to half. The move has been strongly criticised by a range of individuals and organisations, with Conservative Party grandee Ken Clarke MP asking the Education Secretary Justine Greening to ‘reconsider pretty fundamentally the announcement’, and Professor Ted Cantle CBE of the Institute for Community Cohesion Foundation calling the move ‘retrograde’ and ‘deleterious to integration’.

The Catholic Education Service, which has been largely responsible for encouraging the Government to drop the 50% cap, has already announced its intention to open 35 to 40 new religiously selective free schools. This follows the Church of England’s announcement over the summer that they would establish more than 100 new schools in the next four years, equivalent to a quarter of the Government’s target number.

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman said, ‘In the last few days the Government has stated unequivocally that it wants to tackle segregation in our education system and ensure that children from different religious and non-religious backgrounds are able to learn with and from each other as they grow up. Unfortunately, it has also set out that it intends to achieve this by allowing religious schools to become even more mono-cultural than they are, and approving new religious schools that will divide communities and discriminate against local families. This is quite remarkable.

‘If these policies continue to be pursued by the Government, our education system and our society will become a great deal more divided than they already are. All those who would rather see schools be inclusive, fair, and open to all children, must join us in opposing this entirely counter-productive approach.’

Notes

For further comment and information, please contact BHA Education Campaigner, Jay Harman, on jay@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078.

See the full list of approved free schools: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016-02-09-List-of-proposed-Free-Schools.xlsx

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Comment: Government moves to drop restrictions on religious selection in new faith schools’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/09/09/comment-government-moves-to-drop-restrictions-on-religious-selection-in-new-faith-schools/

Read the Government’s green paper, where it sets out the proposals: https://consult.education.gov.uk/school-frameworks/schools-that-work-for-everyone/supporting_documents/SCHOOLS%20THAT%20WORK%20FOR%20EVERYONE%20%20FINAL.pdf

Read more about the BHA’s work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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