Of the remaining 10% of schools, half are run by minority faith groups. In a further development a Department for Education spokesperson has confirmed that, though minority faith schools will still be able to prioritise applications from co-religionists, such priority will only be able to be granted on the grounds of religious membership, not practice. This means places will no longer be awarded to children on the basis of the extent of their family’s religious activities, avoiding the unattractive phenomena observed in Britain of parents attending Church to gain a place at a popular faith school.
Fair Admissions Campaign Steering Group member, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘Ireland and the UK are in the unenviable position of being just two of a very small number of developed countries that permit state funded faith schools to religiously select pupils. That Ireland is taking a big step towards curtailing and reducing such selection should prompt further questions in Britain about why our policy makers are allowing new discriminatory schools to open, and not reducing or phasing out such exclusive practices.
‘The action of the Irish Parliament serves to highlight how hollow are the claims by Catholic authorities in England and Wales that inhibiting Catholic schools from religiously prioritising pupils goes against the Church’s rules. Most private Catholic schools in England and Wales and indeed most Catholic schools in other countries do not select pupils on faith grounds.’
The text of the now enacted Bill can be found here. It is set to come into force for the 2019/2020 academic year.