BHA reveals over a fifth of latest Free School proposals are from faith groups

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is today publishing the names, locations and religious characters of all Free School applications from the ‘ninth wave’, after the Department for Education (DfE) provided the information in response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the BHA earlier this year. The information reveals that just over a fifth of applications recently submitted to the DfE were from faith groups.

In total there were 61 proposals for Free Schools during the ninth wave. 13 of these applications were for ‘faith’ schools, including:

  • Two Church of England schools, both primaries, in Barnet and Waltham Forest.
  • Three generically Christian schools, two primaries in Kent and Greenwich and an all-through school in Hertfordshire.
  • Two Jewish schools, both primaries in Hertfordshire.
  • Two applications for Hindu schools, both all-through schools, one in Leicester and one in Hounslow.
  • Three applications from Sikh schools, two primaries in Newcastle and Southampton, and a secondary in Wolverhampton. The school in Southampton is being proposed by the Khalsa Academy Trust, whose academy in Leeds attracted headlines earlier this year after a number of local non-Sikh parents expressed anger that their children were being sent to the school.
  • One primary school in Brent which is listed as having a ‘Spiritual (World View)’ ethos. In fact, this school has been proposed by a group of former Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s students, who belong to the Indian spiritual community Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

In addition, the Colston Cathedral School in Bristol has been jointly proposed by two existing academies – Colston’s Girls’ School and Bristol Cathedral Choir School (BCCS). The DfE have not listed this as having a ‘faith ethos’, but given the role played by BCCS in establishing the school, it seems that there will be some Church of England influence. 

The BHA has been requesting this information at pre-approval stage for four years now, with the DfE’s previous refusals having been the subject of numerous cases at the Information Tribunal. This represents only the second time the Government has released the information at the formative stage prior to announcing successful applications – although it still delayed before doing so.

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman said ‘Faith groups make up over a fifth of all Free School applications in this group and that figure is far too high. All new schools should be equally inclusive of everyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs, and “faith” schools stand in the way of this goal. We hope the Secretary of State will move to only approve those schools that seek to cater for all the children in their communities.’


For further comment or information, please contact Jay Harman on 020 7324 3078 or

See who the latest proposers are:

Read the BHA’s timeline of its cases at the ICO and Information Tribunal asking for details of Free School applicants:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character:

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.