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In week of High Court case, new survey shows overwhelming majority against religious selection in schools

A new survey conducted by ComRes on behalf of the Accord Coalition has shown that 73% of British adults agree and 50% strongly agree that ‘state funded schools should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy’ – with just 18% supporting the widespread practice continuing to take place. The finding comes the same week as a judicial review at the High Court (British Humanist Association and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign v London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster and Secretary of State for Education) is challenging the decision by Richmond upon Thames Council to open two highly discriminatory Voluntary Aided (VA) Roman Catholic schools outside of competition from other proposals. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the outcome of the survey.

The BHA and Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) believe that a new law means the Council should not have approved the VA schools, but instead invited proposals to open more inclusive Free Schools through a form of competition. The Council did not do this because the Catholic Diocese wants the schools to select almost 100% of their pupils on religious grounds, while Free Schools can only select up to 50% of pupils on the basis of religion. However, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has intervened against both his Free Schools policy and the Coalition Agreement’s commitment to ‘work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible’, in order to support the Council and Diocese in opening the VA schools.

The case will be heard on Thursday and Friday.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘These results demonstrate overwhelming public opposition to state schools being able to segregate pupils on the basis of their parents’ religion. It is vital that this practice ceases, and instead children grow up with others whose beliefs differ from their own – as only children, thus united, are able to know and love each other.

‘The Government seemed to go some way towards recognising the damage that faith-based admissions do when the Coalition Agreement committed them to making admissions more inclusive in new religious schools, and we welcomed this commitment being recognised when the Government decided that all Free Schools to have at least 50% of places open without reference to faith. However, the Government has now gone back on this commitment, making clear in this court case that it thinks that religious groups should be able to avoid the Free Schools policy entirely, and instead open fully discriminatory Voluntary Aided schools outside of competition. We urge the Government to withdraw its involvement in this case.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or at andrew@humanism.org.uk.

73% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that ‘state funded schools should not be allowed to select or discriminate against prospective pupils on religious grounds in their admissions policy’, while only 18% disagreed.

ComRes interviewed 2,008 adults online between 2 and 4 November 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. The survey was conducted on behalf of the Accord Coalition, a coalition of religious and non-religious organisations (including the BHA) who want state funded schools to be made open and suitable to all, regardless of people or their family’s religious or non-religious beliefs.

Read the BHA press release, ‘BHA High Court case against Richmond Council to go ahead next month’, 26 October 2012: https://humanism.org.uk/news/view/1134

Read the previous BHA press release, ‘High Court agrees to hear first ever legal challenge to new ‘faith’ schools because of religious discrimination, Government applies to intervene against BHA’, 4 October 2012: https://humanism.org.uk/news/view/1122

Read more about the British Humanist Association’s work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

Read 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

Visit Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign’s website: http://www.richmondinclusiveschools.org.uk/

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.

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