Opinion Former

Government to offer funds for new fully selective religious schools out of free schools pot

Today, while the Government announced it will not allow the opening of new 100% selective religious free schools, it also announced it will allow the opening of new 100% selective religious voluntary aided schools. This morning it has further announced that the funding for this will come from the pot of funding previously available for free schools.

Reacting to the news, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘New 100% selective religious schools are not popular and if this new scheme is subject to local democracy (unlike the national free school scheme) then it may be that some of these proposals get stopped. But if it’s nationally decided, as seems likely, then this is very bad news.

‘Either way, however, it means that local authorities will now be expected to open new 100% selective state religious schools while being legally banned from opening new inclusive community schools. England stands alone in Europe in seeking to expand such discrimination when the Republic of Ireland - one of the few other countries that allows it - is preparing to largely abolish it. This is utterly incoherent and the Government urgently needs to think again.’

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme those morning, Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds said that he expects few faith schools to open under the new scheme. Humanists UK has questioned in that case why such an expensive new policy is needed.

Mr Copson continued, ‘The reality is that the Government has lost the argument on this one. The majority of the public and a huge range of civil society organisations came together with us to oppose the lifting of limits on discrimination for new religious free schools. The mainstream view is now against state-funded selective faith schools. Today’s dirty little workaround is simply the Government attempting to appease religious hierarchs against the better interests of cohesion, integration, and fairness.’

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