Fair Admissions Campaign debated in the House of Lords

The Fair Admissions Campaign was debated yesterday in the House of Lords, after All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) member and Campaign supporter Baroness Joan Bakewell asked the Government ‘whether they have plans to encourage religiously selective schools to adopt more open admission policies.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA), which is a supporter of the Campaign, has welcomed the debate.

In her comments, Baroness Bakewell highlighted the recent announcement that almost 6,000 new religiously restricted places are to be funded by the Government, the large number of religiously selective Free Schools to have already opened under the Coalition, and the 2001 Cantle Report’s highlighting of faith schools as contributing to ethnic segregation. She asked, ‘will the Minister tell us whether this Government believe that the children of this country should be integrated or segregated?’

Speaking for the Government, Schools Minister Lord Nash responded that ‘the coalition supports inclusive admission arrangements. New faith academies and free schools may admit only half their intake based on faith where they are oversubscribed… This Government believe strongly that one of the secrets for success in this country is that children should be integrated and that all schools should teach a balanced all-faith curriculum, even if they have a particular faith-based thesis. We will not make a long-term success of this country unless we can succeed in doing what the noble Baroness has mentioned.’

Other peers also spoke in support of inclusive schools. BHA Vice President Baroness Whitaker asked ‘Will the Government ensure that the duty to promote community cohesion works in religiously selective schools now that that responsibility has been taken away from Ofsted and the governors themselves may not value it?’ APPHG Secretary Baroness Massey of Darwen asked about religious Free Schools teaching a broad and balanced curriculum.

And APPHG member Lord Dubs commented, ‘will the Minister look at the situation in Northern Ireland where more than 90% of the children are in schools that are segregated on religious lines? Whereas that is not the only factor contributing to the historic difficulties in Northern Ireland, there are ominous lessons for us. Surely, the right way is to move, as in Northern Ireland, towards integrated education, which is what the majority of people in Northern Ireland want and what I believe most people in Britain would want.’

Other peers, such as Baroness Richardson of Calow and Baroness Brinton also made supportive comments.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome this debate and Lord Nash’s affirmation in support of inclusive admissions arrangements. However, Free Schools only constitute a tiny fraction of all schools, and the Government needs to do more to ensure that every single religious school opens up its admissions to all pupils and none.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.

Read the Fair Admissions Campaign’s comments: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/fair-admissions-campaign-debuts-in-parliamentary-debate/

Visit the Fair Admissions Campaign’s website: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/

Read a transcript of the debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/text/130722-0001.htm#1307221000323

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: http://www.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.