The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC) has today welcomed the stand taken by Cambridgeshire County Council against proposals for a raft of new religiously-selective schools in the area.
Meeting to discuss an approach by the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia requesting support for the establishment of new Catholic primary schools in Cambridgeshire, the council’s Children and Young People Committee expressed almost unanimous opposition to allowing new schools to prioritise children on the basis of faith.
At the meeting, the council’s Executive Director for Children, Families and Adults Services, Adrian Loades, presented a draft policy to the committee, stating that the council ‘would not support the establishment of a denominational school as the first school in a new community unless its admissions policy was to give priority to children living in the catchment and not to reserve a certain number of places for those of a particular faith’.
Happily, this position was endorsed by members of the committee. Liberal Democrat councillor Peter Downes warned the council against ‘assisting segregation’ through its schools policy and Labour councillor Joan Whitehead, who chairs the committee, added ‘I think schools need to be inclusive. Children need to learn to get on with all faiths and I think a lot of the troubles we see today around the world are when people of different faiths are not able to get along together’.
Welcoming the committee’s stance, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said ‘This news is simply the latest illustration of just how little support there now is for religious discrimination in school admissions. The council’s decision is of course the right one – if a church or faith group really want to serve their community, then they should do just that, rather than uncharitably limit their school places to a small and exclusive group.’
Richy Thompson, Campaigns Manager at the British Humanist Association, added ‘Cambridgeshire County Council’s stand against discrimination and segregation sends an extremely powerful message and we hope it will act as an example not only for other local authorities but also for Government.’
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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.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British 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 Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.