Two new faith schools get green light from Government
Two new Church of England faith schools have been given the green light to open by the Government. One of the schools, the Avenue CofE Primary School in Derbyshire, was one of 21 approved through the latest wave of free schools, which has been announced today. The other, Kingston Church of England Secondary School in Kingston upon Thames, was granted approval through last year’s new funding scheme for voluntary aided (VA) schools but this was only publicly confirmed in the last week as the proposal moved into the local consultation period.
Humanists UK, which has long campaigned for fully inclusive state schools which are suitable for children from all backgrounds, has expressed its disappointment at the decision to open more faith schools, pointing out that the number of children currently attending CofE schools outstrips the Church’s entire worshipping community. It nevertheless welcomed the fact that the proportion of faith school proposals that had been successful in securing Government approval was considerably lower than previous years, with just 9% of the schools set to open having a faith character compared to nearly a quarter of those announced in 2019.
As a free school, the Avenue will legally be permitted to select half of its pupils according to faith and, while the school’s website purports that it will ‘be open to children of all backgrounds’ it doesn’t rule out selecting children by religion, saying only it will ‘satisfy the requirements of the School Admissions Code’ which allows such selection. As a VA school, Kingston will be able to select 100% of pupils by religion.
Both proposals will now be subject to a four-week local consultation known as a ‘representation period’, with this having already opened in the case of Kingston and local residents strongly encouraged to respond. As a VA school, Kingston will also need approval from the local authority, so there is potentially more scope to prevent it opening in the event of local opposition.
Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:
‘Recent data demonstrates that the number of pupils currently enrolled in CofE schools is greater than the entire worshipping community of the Church. And what is more, that worshipping community skews much older than parents and pupils, with the British Social Attitudes Survey finding just 1% of young adults nowadays are Anglicans. In this context, it is impossible to justify giving yet more power and influence over schools to a religious organisation which has very little importance in the day to day lives of most young people today.
‘The proliferation of Christian schools is increasingly untenable. We urge the Government to make sure all future schools it opens are fully inclusive and suitable for all regardless of background or belief.’