Council delays new faith school decision after Humanists UK objects to consultation

Kingston upon Thames Council has delayed a decision on whether to approve a new Church of England school after Humanists UK objected to irregularities in how local people were consulted about the proposal. In essence, the local Diocese solicited all responses to the proposal to come to them, rather than to the Council – which is what is required under Government guidance. This is a big problem because the proposers then analysed the results themselves in a report they prepared for the Council to make a decision – effectively marking their own homework.

Humanists UK wrote to the Council to explain the issues, pointing out that the guidance states the consultation must be ‘appropriate, fair, and open’,  that ‘during the representation period any person or organisation can submit comments on the proposal to the [local authority], to be taken into account by the decision-maker’, and that ‘the decision-maker must consider ALL the views submitted during the representation period’. Humanists UK also pointed out that it was possible that the Council was making its decision based on incomplete information about the opinions of those most affected by the plan.

As a result, the Council withdrew the item from the agenda of last night’s Children’s and Adults’ Care and Education Committee pending review.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented: 

‘Local people have a legal right to be consulted on any new school that is proposed for their area and the statutory guidance on this matter says this must be carried out in a fair and open manner. By allowing the Diocese to run their own representation period, the Council effectively gave the proposers of the school the opportunity to mark their own homework. Had they gone ahead and approved the school on this basis, this would almost certainly have been unlawful. We are pleased they heeded our warning on this matter.

‘However, when they do revisit this proposal, we would strongly urge them to reject it. As a voluntary aided faith school, this school, once approved, will be able to legally select all its places on the basis of faith. This is despite the fact that the entire project will be funded by the public purse.’