The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today launched an appeal for donations so it can continue to employ the UK’s only campaigner dedicated to opposing ‘faith’ schools and religious discrimination in the education system, Jay Harman. The latest appeal has been launched with a letter from Professor Alice Roberts, BHA Patron and Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, who has long worked to challenge religious privilege in society and promote the understanding of science and Humanism in schools.
The successes of the BHA’s Faith Schools and Education Campaigner this year include:
- Publishing a landmark report revealing that thousands of children may have been unlawfully denied a place at their chosen school as a result of a near-universal failure by ‘faith’ schools to comply with the School Admissions Code.
- Exposing the widespread practice of state-funded ‘faith’ schools demanding financial contributions from parents or pressuring them into making payments that are supposed to be voluntary.
- Seeing evolution taught as part of the primary national curriculum for the first time, following years of campaigning through our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign.
- Welcoming the Welsh Government’s plans to transform Religious Education in Wales into a new ‘Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics’ syllabus, along very similar lines to those we recommended in our response to a consultation on the Welsh curriculum.
- Seeing the Office of the Schools Adjudicator rule once again that the London Oratory School’s faith-based admissions criteria were unlawful and must be removed. This came over two years after we made our initial objection about the school’s discriminatory and divisive admissions arrangements. And it’s not over yet. The Oratory has already stated that it intends to appeal.
- Securing recommendations in the UK Civil Society report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the inclusion of non-religious worldviews in RE, compulsory sex education in all schools, and a reduction in the degree to which schools can religiously select. We were part of the education working group responsible for steering the report.
- Successfully campaigning on a change to regulations requiring school inspectors to be independent not only from the school they’re inspecting, but also from any organisation representing the school. This led to the closure of the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, some of whose inspectors were revealed to have extensive links to the ‘faith’ schools they were inspecting, and also to hold very conservative religious views in relation to homosexuality and women.
- Revealing that despite a ban introduced last year, taxpayers’ money is still going to creationist and potentially extremist private nurseries through the Government’s early years funding programme.
- Exposing significant inconsistencies in the outcomes of Ofsted’s inspections of Charedi Jewish private schools, finding that the schools were far more likely to be rated favourably by a Charedi Jewish inspector than by a non-Charedi inspector. The two Charedi inspectors involved have since been dropped by Ofsted.
- Working alongside the Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats to pass a policy motion at the Lib Dem Conference backing an end to collective worship and employment discrimination in faith schools.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented,
‘I’ve been at the BHA for over 10 years now and I don’t think I can recall a time when the work of our Faith Schools and Education Campaigner has been more important. Jay has made an excellent start since joining us at the beginning of this year, but he would be the first to recognise that all his work is ahead of him. Having lost a lot of our supporters in Parliament at the recent election, and with the education system undergoing a period of such significant change, we’ll have to fight even harder against the presence of religious influence and discrimination in our schools.’
In her letter, Dr Alice Roberts said that the issues within the education system that the BHA seeks to solve ‘demand the attention of someone working full time to campaign for change’, stating that without Jay’s work, many of the successes of the BHA’s education campaigns over the last year would not have been possible.
Also pointing to the advice Jay gives to parents and carers who experience religion-related problems at school, she said
‘As a parent of two young children, I’m tremendously comforted by the knowledge that there’s someone on hand to help in these kinds of situations and to help navigate what can be a complicated and incredibly discriminatory system. So many non-religious parents find themselves with no choice but to send their child to the local ‘faith’ school, knowing that their children will be taught a narrow and even indoctrinatory RE syllabus. Can it be right that religious groups can use taxpayer funds to gain privileged access to, and control of, children’s education? Please consider donating today so Jay and the BHA can continue to provide advice and support to parents in the future.’
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248 596.
All donations will go towards employing the Faith Schools and Education Campaigner for another year and funding his campaigning activities. Any money donated over and above our target will go towards boosting the BHA’s education campaigns.
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on schools and education: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.