The government and Church of England are working together to expand vastly the number of Church-run but state-funded ‘faith’ schools, it has been revealed (recent article). The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today voiced its strong opposition to the proposals, writing with urgency to Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and to all BHA members and supporters, describing the plans as ‘the single most threatening development in the area of ‘faith’ schools since their expansion began in 2001’.
The reported plans suggest that the government is looking for ways to make it even easier for the Church of England to take control of state-funded schools, through allowing and encouraging inclusive community schools to become ‘faith’ Academies in one simple step – something that has not been allowed previously, even under the coalition government’s hugely deregulated schools programme. The Church will also be allowed to ‘sponsor’ many other schools which may not take on a ‘religious character’ but would still have a ‘faith’ ethos.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The plans being cooked up between the government and the Church of England represent the single most threatening development in the area of ‘faith’ schools since their expansion began in 2001. If the Church and the government have their way and their ambitions are realised, the Church will become the single largest provider of schools, totally funded by the state. That risks a majority of schools being allowed to discriminate religiously in employment, discriminate religiously in admissions, and teach curricula skewed towards Christianity across the board.
‘This is a potentially massive takeover. It is unsurprising that a “national” church to which 80% of the population do not actually see themselves as belonging and whose services are attended on a monthly basis by under 5% of the population should see its only hope for future survival as a state-funded service provider. But the idea that government, which should be providing schools inclusive of all, is facilitating this drive with public money is shameful.’
The BHA has called for the government to instead work to ensure the Academies programme offers no relaxation of the rules for any maintained school without a religious character to convert to a religious school, and no possibility of schools which once served the whole community to become religiously sponsored.
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07855 380 633.
Read the BHA’s letter to Michael Gove: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012-01-04-michael-gove-cofe-ambitions-final.pdf
Read the BHA’s letter to members and supporters: http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f506ec535c3e750b66180af13&id=5fbb244234
In the past, it has been extremely rare for inclusive community schools to become ‘faith’ schools – something that is not an easy process. However, a community school that converts to be an Academy then only needs to hold a consultation if it wants to also change to be a ‘faith’ school, and many community schools upon converting to Academies find themselves looking for support from a larger organisation in place of the local authority. Being far and away the biggest and the oldest education provider, the Church of England is easily the best equipped to be that organisation.
The government is now working with the Church to change the rules to make things even easier, and allow the consultations on converting to an Academy and converting to a ‘faith’ school – which currently have to be separate – to be combined. With the Church actively encouraging the practice, many community schools are likely to become Church Academies. Furthermore, the Church is seeking to sponsor converted Academies that choose not to formally take on a religious character. This will, nonetheless, still allow the Church to put its slant on some aspects of the curriculum, and perhaps also require senior staff to be practising Anglicans. It is also seeking a formal partnership with other schools that remain secular.
Read the TES report, ‘An answer from above?’, 23 December 2011: http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6158763
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.