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Academies Bill will create irreversible religious divisions in the schools system

The Academies Bill ‘dangerously entrenches irreversible religious privilege in the system’ the British Humanist Association (BHA) has said today.

The Academies Bill, which is debated in Parliament for the first time today, represents a step-change in policy, allowing high-performing, state-maintained schools automatically to become Academies. The Academies Bill has bypassed scrutiny by MPs and has been introduced straight into the House of Lords.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented, ‘We are especially concerned about the provisions of the Bill that will make it compulsory for state-funded religious schools to become religious academies but builds in no analogous protections for community schools to always become inclusive secular Academies. This double standard dangerously entrenches irreversible religious privilege in the system. Religious Academies will increase massively in number, and be totally freed from any sort of curriculum entitlement for our children. The spread of creationist teaching and of biased and counter-educational RE and sex education that occurred under the previous government will receive an additional boost from this Bill.’

‘Largely unregulated and with almost total control of their curricula, there is little to prevent these new state-funded but independent religious schools from imposing their religion on staff and pupils. What is to stop new Catholic academies from refusing to teach sexual reproduction in biology, let alone objective sex and relationships education? It was a commonplace of the previous government’s defence of the expansion of religious schools to say that at least the national curriculum mitigated the worst excesses of sectarian organisations and churches – now even this protection is to be taken away. Why the new government should not only continue one of the previous government’s most unpopular policies – the handing over of large parts of the public education system to sectional religious interests, unfettered by progressive regulation of any sort – but actually accelerate it, is inexplicable.’

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.

Read the BHA’s briefing for peers for the 2nd Reading debates on the Academies Bill, 7th June 2010

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination based on religion or belief. Committed to human rights, democracy, equality and mutual respect, the BHA works for an open and inclusive society with freedom of belief and speech.

Some polls and surveys
In a YouGov/Accord poll of June 2009:
• 57% believed that state funded schools that selected students according to their religion harm community cohesion.
• 72% agreed or strongly agreed that all schools should implement recruitment and employment policies that do not discriminate on grounds of religion or belief.
• 74% held the view that all state schools should teach an objective and balanced syllabus for education about a wide range of religious and non-religious beliefs.

In an ICM faith schools poll (2005) 64% of people agree that “the government should not be funding faith schools of any kind”, fearing their impact on social cohesion.

An ippr report found that faith schools which are their own admission authorities are ten times more likely to be highly unrepresentative of their surrounding area than faith schools where the local authority is the admission authority. 

For a summary of recent research and surveys on faith schools, see the Accord Coalition’s dossier of independent evidence on faith schools, which covers: The impact of religious admissions on social segregation (sometimes called “cream skimming” or social selection); Faith schools and school standards / attainment; Faith schools and community cohesion; The number of new faith schools; Faith schools and homophobia; Faith schools and recruitment; The number of schools of different types, and their denominations.

 

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