Opinion Former Article

Revealed: Christian, Muslim, and Jewish proposals amongst 14 bids for 100% religiously selective schools

The UK Government has revealed that it has received 14 applications for a new capital funding scheme designed to allow a wave of new, 100% religiously selective, voluntary aided (VA) schools to open in England. Humanists UK has now identified a number of those proposals, and can reveal they include Catholic, Church of England, Muslim, and Jewish bids.

In response to a parliamentary question tabled by All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) Vice Chair Lord Warner, Government education spokesperson Lord Agnew, admitted that, in addition to the 14 applications, there had been just 22 expressions of interest in the scheme.

The VA funding scheme was launched following a decision to keep the 50% cap on religious admissions in free schools last year. The Government has so far refused to reveal any additional details about the applications and has rejected two Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted by Humanists UK to find out which religious groups have proposed these schools and where they are located.

Since the only opposition to the cap came from the Catholic Education Service (CES) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, it seemed likely that the vast majority of the proposals will be for Catholic or Jewish schools. Indeed, the CES has previously said it wants between 35 and 40 extra schools but would only be prepared to provide them without restrictions on religious selection.

However, Humanists UK has been able to establish that, in addition to four Catholic schools proposed by the Diocese of East Anglia (one in Cambridgeshire, two in Peterborough and another in Norfolk), and a Jewish school proposed for Wembley, other religious providers do appear to have applied. These include the backers of the Al-Noor VA Secondary School - a Muslim school for boys in Romford - and the Kingston Church of England Secondary School in Kingston-upon-Thames. This is in spite of the fact that the Church of England maintains it does not endorse 100% faith-based selection and is committed only to schools that are ‘wide open to the communities they serve’. The identities of the other seven bids is unknown.

Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham commented: ‘The threat to school choice and social cohesion these proposals pose to the areas where they do open is extremely worrying.

‘At Humanists UK we are contacted by an increasing number of families who have been shut out of their local schools because they do not share its faith, and all the evidence shows that faith-based selection separates children not only by religion but also by ethnicity and socio-economic background.

‘Even if the Government allows just a handful of these selective schools to open, this sends a deeply problematic message that the education of children with some backgrounds is more important than that of others. It also risks encouraging more applications for future rounds of funding.

‘We will continue to oppose the establishment of these schools and urge the Government to abandon this discriminatory scheme and only fund schools that are inclusive, open, and welcoming to all.’

NOTES

For more information, contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725110860.

Read more on the latest round of VA schools to open: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/11/15/new-100-religiously-selective-state-schools-set-to-open-in-england/

Read our latest news item on the ability of new VA schools to convert to academy status: https://humanism.org.uk/2019/02/28/government-gives-green-light-for-new-voluntary-aided-schools-to-convert-to-academies-thus-circumventing-50-cap/

Read more about our faith schools campaign work: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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