Opinion Former Article

Government in rethink of fully segregated ‘faith’ schools proposal?

Ministers may be reconsidering controversial proposals to allow new state-funded religious schools to become fully segregated along religious lines, according to Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, who has stated that ‘admission 100% on faith leads to increased levels of segregation within communities’. Humanists UK, which campaigns in favour of fully inclusive schools and has been leading opposition to the plans, has cautiously welcomed her comments, and urged the Government to respect the evidence by keeping the cap in place.

In September last year the Government consulted on proposals to end the current requirement that all new religious schools leave at least half of their places open to local children irrespective of religion or belief. The plan was also included in the Government’s manifesto prior to the general election.

However, evidence from a range of sources released in recent months has been overwhelming in its condemnation of the move, revealing that removing the so-called 50% cap on religious selection would not only lead to increased levels of segregation in schools and communities, but also damage social mobility and reduce the access of parents to their local schools.

Speaking in The Sunday Times this weekend, the Ofsted Chief Inspector said she is ‘uncomfortable’ with allowing new fully segregated religious schools to be established, adding that she is ‘not sure [the proposals] are still on the cards’. ‘I am uncomfortable with anything that leads to increased segregation’, she commented.

A poll carried out by Populus in May revealed that 80% of the public are opposed to allowing schools to select all their places on the grounds of religion. This included 67% of Catholics, despite the fact that the Government’s proposals came largely at the urging of the Catholic Education Service (CES). Previous claims by the CES that canon law prevents them from opening new schools under the cap were exposed as false by Humanists UK late last year.

Commenting on the reports, Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman said, ‘Schools are places where children from a range of backgrounds should come together, grow up together, and learn from and with one another. Unfortunately, it is this vital process of integration and mutual understanding that fully-segregated religious schools threaten.

‘Amanda Spielman is absolutely right to come out against this divisive policy, and the Government should listen to both its Chief Inspector and the evidence in changing its mind on this. Society is best served not by catering to the vested interests of one or two religious organisations, but by placing the better interests of children and integration at the heart of their policy. That is what we’ll be encouraging the Government to do.’

Notes to editors

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

See the Humanists UK news item ‘80% of public oppose Government plans to remove the cap on faith-based school admissions’.

See the Humanists UK news item ‘Evidence shows Government proposal to allow 100% religious selection in schools will lead to increased segregation’.

Read the Humanists UK briefing on why claims that new Catholic schools can’t be opened under the cap are false.

 

About Humanists UK

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association.

 

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