The BHA is seeking urgent clarification from the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove MP following his statement that the government will make it easier to set up new voluntary-aided (VA) ‘faith schools’.
VA ‘faith schools’ are funded by the local authority and enjoy considerable privileges, including the right to discriminate against all pupils and teaching and non-teaching staff on religious grounds.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that parents who hoped to set up a Jewish ‘free school’ in Barnet were dismayed at the government’s plans to force such schools to take 50 per cent of pupils without reference to religion. The Mill Hill school planning group chair Adam Dawson described the 50 per cent rule as ‘outrageous’ and ‘political tokenism at the expense of a good education for our children.’
Another group, Jewish Primary Education for South Hertfordshire (JPESH), confirmed to the paper that it plans to set up a new VA school rather than a free school as a result of Mr Gove’s comments.
BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said:
‘Mr Gove’s comments confirm that the government is committed to increasing “faith schools” of all kinds, not just Academies. VA schools operate highly-discriminatory admissions and employment policies, shutting out children and teachers who are of the “wrong” or no religion. Quite simply, an increase in the number of VA schools will mean an increase in religious and social segregation.’
‘While the 50 per cent rule for free schools doesn’t go nearly far enough, it is at least an indication that religious discrimination should be curbed. What is the point of having such a quota if religious groups will now be able to set up a new VA school, which can take 100 per cent of pupils on the basis of religion? It is a worrying indication of government policy that more schools are likely to be created which are not inclusive and give more and more power to religious groups.’
For further comment or information, contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248 596 or 020 7079 3583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.