Humanists UK alarmed at Government’s proposal to remove 50% Cap on Faith Schools

It has been reported by The Sunday Times that the Government is considering plans to remove the 50% admissions cap on new faith schools in England. This would mean that they would no longer have to offer a proportion of their places to children who do not follow their religion but would instead be able to apply religious discrimination in 100% of their admissions.

Humanists UK Has expressed its alarm that this change is being considered. The same proposal was dropped by the Government in 2018 following a campaign culminating in a joint letter opposing the change, signed by religious leaders, parliamentarians, education experts, and public figures.

The 50% cap, introduced by the Labour Government in 2007, has been a crucial safeguard in ensuring that faith schools do not exclude all children who live locally whose families do not share the same beliefs. By restricting the proportion of pupils that faith schools can select based on their religious beliefs, the cap promotes diversity, cohesion, and fairness within schools.

Even with the cap in place, recent studies have shown that faith schools continue to be less inclusive than schools without a religious character, in terms of disadvantaged childrenchildren in care, and those with additional learning needs.

Removing this cap would be a backwards step that risks increasing division and inequality. Eliminating the cap would further entrench religious selection in our education system, undermining the principle of inclusivity and reinforcing religious privilege.

Following evidence from Humanists UK, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child criticised the UK Government for permitting faith-based discrimination in school admissions. Despite this, the present Government is now considering increasing the discrimination, and the leader of the opposition has recently been criticised for showing similar support for such a discriminatory system.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said

‘The government’s proposal to lift the 50% cap on faith-based admissions will increase segregation in our schools at a time when integration and cohesion has never been more important. It will further disadvantage non-religious families and families of the “wrong” religion.

‘Rather than expanding religious selection, a government that cared about cohesion would be seeking to create a single admissions system where all state schools are open to children from any background or belief.’