BHA challenges Secretary of State on false allegation of ‘vexatious’ actions in open letter

Take ActionTake action! We’ve written to Nicky Morgan to oppose the Government’s moves to prevent us and other civil society organisations from voicing concerns about the many problems that parents face as a result of discriminatory religious selection within the school admissions system. Now it’s your turn: we are encouraging everyone to write to their MPs to speak out, and we’ve provided a facility through which it’s possible to do so.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has criticised the Government’s move to ban civil society organisations from raising concerns about English school admission arrangements, stating that parents and children ‘will be the only ones to lose out should this proposed change go ahead’. The ban, which was first suggested by a variety of religious organisations in a meeting with the Department for Education (DfE) last year, is specifically targeted at ‘secularist campaign groups’, who the Education Secretary has accused of submitting ‘vexatious complaints’ about the admission arrangements of ‘faith’ schools.

In its letter, the BHA describes the move as being ‘detrimental to the school admission system as a whole’, claiming it will ‘in no way contribute to making the system fairer, more transparent, and easier to navigate for parents and their children’. The proposed ban comes after an investigation carried out by the BHA and Fair Admissions Campaign revealed widespread failure to adhere to the School Admissions Code by religiously selective schools. The letter goes on to say:

‘Without our objections, several schools would still be breaking the law by selecting on the basis of race and/or gender; several would still be selecting on the basis of whether or not parents arrange flowers or help clean at church; and one would still be policing whether or not a child’s parents are having sex when their mothers are menstruating. Perhaps more pertinently in light of the ban, without our objections most schools would still be unlawfully failing to publish their admissions policies, either on time or at all, preventing parents from even being able to object in the first place.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson, commented: ‘As our letter explains, we receive thousands of requests for support, advice, and advocacy from parents right across England every year, and if this proposal goes ahead, a huge number of families will lose out. Every objection we submit is on behalf of those families and to describe these efforts as “vexatious” is a total mischaracterisation. The findings of our report reveal that there is a significant amount of unfairness and injustice in our admissions system, and it is long past time that the Government addresses this rather than pander to the requests of the religious lobby. We will await a response from Mrs Morgan and we hope she will respond positively.’

Notes

For further information or comment please contact the BHA’s Education Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 07970393680.

Read the BHA’s letter to the Secretary of State: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016-01-28-Letter-from-the-BHA.pdf

Read the Department for Education’s press release announcing the proposed ban: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/parents-to-get-greater-say-in-the-school-admissions-process

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Government moves to ban organisations from exposing law-breaking schools unfairly restricting access to children and parents’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/01/25/government-moves-to-ban-organisations-from-exposing-law-breaking-schools-unfairly-restricting-access-to-children-and-parents/

Read the BHA’s comment piece in the Independent ‘Is Nicky Morgan on the side of children or faith organisations’: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/is-nicky-morgan-on-the-side-of-children-or-faith-organisations-a6837811.html

Read the BHA/FAC report ‘An Unholy mess: How virtually all religiously selective schools are breaking the law: https://humanism.org.uk/2015/10/01/an-unholy-mess-new-report-reveals-near-universal-noncompliance-with-school-admissions-code-among-state-faith-schools-in-england/

Read the FAC’s briefing on the report: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/anunholymess-briefing/

The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.

Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and LecturersBritish Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

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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