In a letter to the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, Humanists UK has called for a parliamentary inquiry on the Government’s proposal to drop the 50% cap on religious selection at free schools.
In 2016, the Government consulted on proposals to drop the current requirement that all new religious free schools keep at least half of their places open to all local children, irrespective of religion or belief. This is despite the evidence that the so-called 50% cap on religious selection has significantly boosted integration in religious schools and improved the fair access of local families to their local schools.
Whilst the former Education Secretary, Justine Greening, was understood to have shelved the proposals following a successful campaign run by Humanists UK to highlight the evidence in support of keeping the cap, the new Education Secretary Damian Hinds is reported to be going ahead with the proposals.
Humanists UK’s letter to Robert Halfon MP, the chair of the Education Committee, expresses concern that the consequences of this move will not only serve to increase religious segregation in our state schools, but also send a damaging message about the value that the Government ascribes to integration in society more broadly.’ Questioning the Government’s justification for the decision, it goes on to note:
‘The former Education Secretary, Justine Greening, presided over the three-month consultation on the proposal, sought further representations and evidence for more than a year subsequent to that, and commissioned independent research into mixing within schools, before concluding that the cap should remain in place. Despite this, barely a month later, it has been reported that a different decision is to be taken. It is difficult to imagine that a similarly rigorous assessment of the evidence could have been carried out in that time, which makes the sudden change in policy a curious one.’
Humanists UK states that if it has indeed already reached a fresh decision on the 50% cap, the DfE has ‘disregarded the evidence’, and ‘put the demands of a handful of religious groups over the interests of children, parents, and the education system more broadly.’
Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Given the extent to which the evidence on the 50% cap is being disregarded, it is time for a thorough investigation into the way in which the demands of the religious lobby can come to be prioritised over the rights of children and parents. The cap is simply a matter of Government policy, so any decision to drop it does not require parliamentary approval. That is why it’s so important for the Education Committee to play a role’.
For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 3078.
Read the full letter to the chair of the Education Committee: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-02-20-Letter-to-Robert-Halfon-re-50-cap-inquiry.pdf
Read Humanists UK’s briefings on the 50% cap:
Religious lobbying on the 50% cap – https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016-11-17-BHA-briefing-Religious-lobbying-on-50-per-cent-cap.pdf
General briefing: 50% cap on religious selection – https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/FINAL-Briefing-on-50-religious-selection-cap.pdf
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