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BHA: 'Faith' school admissions debated in the House of Lords

‘Faith’ school admissions criteria were debated in the House of Lords yesterday, as the Government rejected an amendment that sought to curb expanding discrimination in Academies. The British Humanist Association (BHA) worked with All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) Secretary Baroness Massey of Darwen to table an amendment to stop Voluntary Controlled (VC) ‘faith’ schools that convert to Academies from being able to easily increase the priority of religious criteria in their admissions policies, and briefed peers ahead of the debate.

Speaking in support of the amendment, Baroness Massey said that ‘my chief concern is the fostering of segregation in schools on the basis of religion… I believe that all schools should include and educate all pupils together so that they can learn from each other instead of being segregated on religious and other grounds.’ The amendment was opposed by the Government and did not go to vote.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is likely that many oversubscribed VC schools, after converting to Academies, will decide to add religious admissions requirements, and as a result school segregation is only going to get worse. We believe that faith-based admissions criteria are wrong, and it is for this reason that yesterday we supported the Accord Coalition when they launched their new campaign taking aim at VC admissions.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read the BHA’s briefing for the Lords Committee Stage of the Education Bill.

Read the Education Bill Report (4th Day) Lords Hansard, 2 November 2011.

In opposing the amendment, Department for Education spokesperson Baroness Garden of Frognal said, ‘At present, any maintained faith school is able to select up to 100 per cent of its pupils based on faith, subject to being oversubscribed... We want to ensure parity across faith schools in the maintained and academy sector… The noble Baroness's amendment would remove that flexibility for voluntary controlled schools that have converted to become academies, fixing their admissions arrangements to those that existed on the point of conversion. This would leave them unable to respond to changes in local communities-something that voluntary schools can do in the maintained sector.’ However, this is not the case, as the amendment did allow VC schools that converted to Academies to increase their discrimination in admissions, so long as they had first chosen (following a separate consultation) to be able to religiously discriminate in appointing all teaching staff – not just one fifth. This creates a process that is more analogous to that of when a VC school converts to a VA school – what has to happen in the maintained sector before VC schools are able to alter their admissions policies.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools. The BHA has produced a table describing the types of ‘faith’ school and explaining their privileges and exemptions.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.
 

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