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BHA: Government disappoints in failing to deliver its commitment to inclusive ‘faith’ school admissions

The Government has seemingly acknowledged its failure to make progress in its commitment to make religious school admissions more inclusive, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has today observed. The comments come in response to the publication of the Government’s mid-term audit of progress towards its coalition agreement commitments. The BHA is disappointed at the lack of progress.

In the Coalition Agreement, published in May 2010, the Government committed, ‘We will ensure that all new Academies follow an inclusive admissions policy. We will work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible.’

Reviewing progress towards this commitment in today’s document, the Government says that ‘We have brought into force a revised schools admissions code, including for Academies, to reduce prescription and to make it easier for popular schools to admit more pupils.

‘We have allowed Academies and Free Schools to prioritise children receiving the Pupil Premium.’

Confusingly, this statement omits to mention the requirement placed by the Government on religious Free Schools which states that they cannot select more than 50 percent of their pupils with reference to faith. This did represent a small step towards the Coalition Agreement commitment, especially when coupled with the introduction of a legal presumption that almost all new schools would be Free Schools.

However, in November, the Government intervened in a judicial review taken by the BHA in order to argue that religious groups could open 100 percent selective ‘faith’ schools while having carte blanche to ignore the Free Schools presumption. This intervention was ultimately successful, which led local MP, Vince Cable, to accuse Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove’s officials of ‘acting in contradiction of the Coalition Agreement in relation to faith schools’.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The Government’s statement today reflects the lack of progress towards the commitment made in 2010 to increase inclusivity in school admissions. The requirement for Free Schools to have 50 percent inclusive admissions did represent some progress; however, recent moves by the Government to make it easier than ever for religious groups to open 100 percent selective Voluntary Aided schools have left this progress in tatters.

‘This lack of progress is despite the fact that the British public opposes faith-based selection by schools by more than four to one. We recently joined with other groups to write to Michael Gove to object to faith-based selection in state schools, and will be actively taking other steps to challenge this ongoing practice.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or at andrew@humanism.org.uk.

Read today’s publication, ‘The Coalition: together in the national interest’: http://assets.cabinetoffice.gov.uk.s3-external-3.amazonaws.com/midtermreview/Programme_for_Government_Update.pdf

Read the Coalition Agreement: http://www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_187876.pdf

Read the Free Schools model funding agreement: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/doc/a/annex%20b%20-%20admissions%20for%20mainstream%20free%20schools.doc

Read the BHA press release, ‘BHA and local campaigners to clash with Government in High Court over new religious schools’, 14 November 2012: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/11/14/news-1142/

Read the BHA press release, ‘Full judgement published in Richmond Catholic schools judicial review’, 14 December 2012: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/12/14/full-judgement-published-in-richmond-catholic-schools-judicial-review/

Read the BHA press release, ‘Vince Cable accuses Michael Gove’s officials of breaking Coalition Agreement on ‘faith’ school admissions’, 28 November 2012: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/11/28/news-1150/

Read the BHA press release, ‘In week of High Court case, new survey shows overwhelming majority against religious selection in schools’, 12 November 2012: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/11/12/news-1141/

Read the BHA press release, ‘Religion, belief, human rights and educational organisations come together to say no to faith-based school admissions’, 17 December 2012: http://humanism.org.uk/2012/12/17/religion-belief-human-rights-and-educational-organisations-come-together-to-say-no-to-faith-based-school-admissions/

Read more about the British Humanist Association’s work on ‘faith’ schools: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

Read the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: http://www.humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/schools-with-a-religious-character.pdf

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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