Teachers at a community infants school in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham are to stage a one-day strike over plans to close the school and transfer pupils to a Voluntary Aided Church of England junior school. The plans to fold Village Infants School into William Ford Church of England (Voluntary Aided) Junior School are currently being consulted upon by the local Council. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed concern that, yet again, the proposals will result in a less inclusive school system.
From April until 8 May, the Council ran its pre-statutory consultation, setting out the plans for the merger to parents for the first time. However, the BHA advised Village Infants at this stage that this consultation may well be illegal, as it did not mention that the resultant school would be a Voluntary Aided school, able to religiously discriminate in admissions and employment for all pupils, and teach a skewed Religious Education curriculum. It is a legal requirement for a consultation to provide sufficient information to allow consultees to properly understand and make ‘meaningful and informed representations’ on what is being consulted upon.
However, in spite of this, the Council still pressed ahead with the publication of formal proposals on 25 May, and is now holding a statutory consultation on those proposals. Parents, staff and pupils at the primary school are overwhelmingly against the plans, with more than 700 people signing a petition. Teachers have now announced that they will go on strike.
BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘A recent BHA investigation found that over the last five years, 32 schools without a religious character became a “faith” school due to amalgamation – but not one “faith” school lost its religious character. It is shameful to see yet another example of this happening – and in a case where there is such overwhelming public opposition to the plans.
‘As we concluded in that investigation, when schools are amalgamated, the resultant school should be at least as inclusive as the two amalgamating schools – not more exclusive. Parents should not have their choice of schools restricted as a result of a change that is, ultimately, coming about to reduce organisational complexity. The default assumption should be that an amalgamation involving a school without a religious character should result in a school without a religious character – not the other way around.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0781 55 89 636.
View the proposals and consultation document: http://www.lbbd.gov.uk/Education/Documents/WilliamFordVillageAmalgamation.pdf
Read the report, Dagenham infant school teachers to strike over merger plans, 2 July 2012: http://www.bdpost.co.uk/news/dagenham_infant_school_teachers_to_strike_over_merger_plans_1_1428336
Read the BHA report, Freedom of Information report on organisation of ‘faith’ schools in the maintained sector: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/freedom-of-information-report-on-organisation-of-faith-schools-in-the-maintained-sector.pdf
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools
View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/schools-with-a-religious-character.pdf
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.