Additional changes recently made by the government to Free School model funding agreement include requiring schools to promote democracy, equality of opportunity, respect, tolerance and the rule of law. The changes, which promote values supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and emphasise that there is one law for all, represent a ‘significant victory’ in the campaign against extremism, and in favour of citizenship education.
The new requirement is one of many changes that were recently made, which also saw Free Schools become unable to teach against the scientific consensus, and also a check placed on plans for faith groups to take over Academies without a religious character. The new rules in this area state:
The Academy Trust shall ensure that principles are promoted which support fundamental British values, including: respect for the basis on which the law is made and applied in England; respect for democracy and support for participation in the democratic processes; support for equality of opportunity for all; support and respect for the liberties of all within the law; and respect for and tolerance of different faiths and religious and other beliefs.
BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘These changes represent a significant victory in ensuring Academies and Free Schools have to respect the shared citizenship that all British people enjoy, which includes liberty, equality, tolerance for other views, and respect for the rule of English law. The changes also represent a blow to those who would seek to impose alternative religious viewpoints that do not respect these values and this tolerance, and this is also to be welcomed.’
It is hoped that the changes will also subsequently made to the Academy model funding agreements.
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.
Read the new model funding agreement for Free Schools: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/freeschools/a0074737/free-schools-model-funding-agreement
Changes to the Curriculum, curriculum development and delivery, and RE and collective worship section of the funding agreement include:
- Section 22 – it is no longer expected that Free Schools will have a subject-based specialism.
- Section 22A – a new section that requires Academy Trusts to publish information in relation to the content and approach of their curricula – also to be welcomed.
- Section 24A – a new section that requires Academy Trusts to teach in accordance with the scientific consensus.
- Section 25.a) – now requires ‘faith’ Free Schools to conform to schedule 19 paragraph 4 of the Schools Standards and Framework Act, which means that parents of pupils at these schools can request to that their children be taught the locally agreed RE syllabus, instead of a confessional syllabus, as is the case for parents of pupils at VA schools – another welcome change.
- Section 26.c) – a new section that give the Secretary of State the explicit power to veto any proposals by a Free School without a religious character to acquire one.
- Section 28 – a new section that requires Academy Trusts to comply with section 405 of the Education Act 1996, which means that parents must be able to opt their children out of sex education – a negative change.
- Section 28B – a new section that requires Academy Trusts to promote fundamental British values, as outlined above.
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.