Fair Admissions Campaign dismay as Government announces 5,800 new religiously restricted school places

The Government has announced it is to fund at least 5,788 new school places which are likely to be subject to religiously selective admissions criteria. The funding was announced yesterday through the Targeted Basic Need programme, and the number of places dwarfs the estimated 3,783 places that have been created so far at religious Free Schools and yet cannot be apportioned on faith grounds – Free Schools can select to half their pupils on the basis of religion. The Fair Admissions Campaign, which aims to end religious selection by state funded schools, has expressed regret at the decision, and called on the Government to require that all schools involved in the programme guarantee that any new places they gain are open places.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Chair of the Accord Coalition, commented, ‘It is astonishing that a time when it is vital for the future harmony of British society that children of different faith backgrounds grow up together in school, almost 6,000 faith-restricted school places are being created. The country needs its children to be integrated, not segregated.’

Professor Ted Cantle CBE of the iCoCo Foundation commented, ‘Believe it or not, the Government does actually have an integration policy, but only on paper. This is clearly a case of being departments being completely “unjoined up”, being blind to their own words – and to common sense – and allowing another 6,000 children and their friendships to be segregated during their most formative of years.’

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘Yesterday’s announcement undermines the Government’s coalition agreement commitment to “work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible.” We urge the Government to require that all places funded through this scheme are inclusive of everyone, instead of badly damaging this commitment.’

Jeremy Rodell, Chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, commented, ‘Many of the schools that will benefit from this welcome investment in education are effectively unavailable to the great majority of local children because they insist on faith-based selection when they are over-subscribed. This is grossly unfair. It would be easy for the Government to make the funding conditional on all new places created being available to everyone, regardless of their religion or beliefs.’

The Fair Admissions Campaign has written to the Government to express its concern.

Notes

For further comment please contact Accord Coalition Coordinator Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071, BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal on 07738 435 059, or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

Read the Government’s announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/targeted-capital-funding-for-new-school-places

View the list of schools to be expanded: http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/l/tbnp%20list%20of%20projects%20july%202013%20-%20final%20version.pdf

The 5,788 figure was calculated by going through the spreadsheet, identifying all places at religiously named schools (6,939), and checking how many of those schools religiously select in admissions (and if so, to what extent).

The 3,783 figure refers to half of the number of places at religiously designated Free Schools to have opened so far (i.e. in the first two waves of the programme). Free Schools are not allowed to select more than 50% of their places on the basis of faith due to a clause in their funding agreement. Grindon Hall Christian School is excluded from this figure as it was already a fully inclusive private school so cannot be said to have opened up its admissions as a result of the programme.

Visit the Fair Admissions Campaign website at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/

The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.

The Campaign is already being supported by the Accord Coalition, the Association of Teachers and LecturersBritish Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Liberal Democrat Education AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.