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Isle of Wight community school’s avoiding closure a ‘victory for inclusive education’

Weston Community Primary School in the Isle of Wight, the only primary without a religious character in the west of the island, has avoided Council-threatened closure. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which worked with local groups on the campaign to keep the school open, has branded the result a ‘victory for inclusive education’.

Against the wishes of many parents and those in the local community, Isle of Wight Council had proposed to close the school over that of the other two local schools, both ‘faith’ schools.

However, rather ironically given that ‘faith’ Academies and Free Schools are more religiously discriminatory than other types of school, Weston has managed to avoid closure by obtaining an Academy Order from the Department for Education and therefore placing itself out of control of the Council. The move follows a well-orchestrated local campaign against the plans, which the BHA was the first national group to support. The BHA contacted its members and supporters in the area, enlisting their aid and provided advice and assistance to local campaigners.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘This important result represents a major victory for inclusive education in the west of the Isle of Wight. Proposals for Weston’s closure represented blatant discrimination against those not of the Christian faith, and had the council gone ahead with their plans, parents who are not Anglican or Catholic, or who want an inclusive education for their children, would have had to drive 12 miles each way to reach the nearest community school – 240 miles a week.

‘It is important that our schools are equally open to the whole of their local communities, regardless of religion or belief, so that children can be educated together and grow up knowing those who hold beliefs different from their own.’

Local parent Jeremy Cangialosi, who has four children at the school and who helped run the local campaign, said, ‘I don’t think our confidence would have held up so well without all the support and advice we got from the BHA, Accord Coalition and all the other members and individuals who stood up for the campaign – thank you.’

Notes

The BHA is fundraising to continue its campaign against ‘faith’ schools. Please donate today at http://justgiving.com/nofaithschools

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read the BHA’s previous press release, Isle of Wight community school threatened with closure because of need to maintain ‘the proportion of denominational places’, 21st July 2011

Visit the Save Weston Community Primary School site.

Over the summer, Isle of Wight Council held a consultation on reducing the number of primary places in the west of the island. This area covers three schools – St Saviour’s Catholic Primary School, All Saints Church of England Primary School and the inclusive Weston Community Primary School. Weston is rated by Ofsted the best of the three schools, but the consultation proposed closing Weston because the national guidance on school closures states that ‘[t]he Decision Maker (either the council or the schools’ adjudicator) should not normally approve the closure of a school with a religious character where the proposal would result in a reduction in the proportion of denominational places in the area.’ A decision on the consultation was expected in December.

Read the Isle of Wight consultation, Consultation on the Reduction of Primary School Provision in the Freshwater and Totland Area.

Read the Department for Education guidance, Extract of Decision Makers’ Guidance for: Closing a Maintained Mainstream School.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in theUK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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