Opinion Former Article

Humanists UK concerned over Government’s comments on 50% cap on faith admissions

Humanists UK has expressed concern over comments by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson who this week said the Government was ‘looking closely’ at opening more voluntary aided faith schools in England and its position on the 50% cap on faith admissions in free schools.

In a response to a question in the House of Commons on Monday by Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh who wanted to know whether the Government would ‘try to fulfil’ a manifesto pledge to remove the 50% cap on religious selection so more Catholic schools could open, the Education Secretary said ‘we will bring plenty of vim and vigour to this, and I will be looking at it closely.’

Humanists UK led the successful campaign to retain the 50% cap when the Government proposed to scrap it as part of its Schools that work for everyone green paper and is spearheading the campaign against new 100% religiously selective voluntary aided faith schools in England. It said it is being very watchful over any possible changes that the Government may be considering on the cap.

Last year Humanists UK welcomed the Government u-turn which kept the 50% cap in place meaning all new and existing religious free schools must continue to keep at least half of their places open to all children, irrespective of their religious or non-religious backgrounds. Although the Government also announced new funding for 100% selective voluntary aided schools, they are harder to set up than free schools, so this was a significant victory in the fight for inclusive schools.

Earlier this year the Department for Education announced a total of six new state-funded faith schools had been given the go ahead – almost a quarter of those that will open. Three are free schools and three are voluntary aided. While Humanists UK would prefer inclusive open schools with no religious discrimination at all, the cap ensures that, at the very least, faith-based free schools cannot discriminate against every pupil they admit on religious grounds.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham said: ‘We are concerned by the Education Secretary’s comments this week and hope there will be absolutely no roll-back on the 50% cap on faith-based admissions in state-funded free schools.

'No state-funded school should be allowed to discriminate against pupils on religious grounds and, if the Government is reconsidering its position on religious selection, we urge it to abolish any plans to open more 100% selective voluntary aided faith schools. Not only are these schools largely inaccessible to most local families, but, by dividing children along religious, ethnic, and economic lines, they are detrimental to integration at a time when this has never been more important.’

NOTES:

For more information, contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read more about the approval of religiously-selective state schools.

Read more about our campaign win on the 50% cap.

Find out more about our faith schools campaign work.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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