Comment: Government moves to drop restrictions on religious selection in new ‘faith’ schools

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson

In response to reports that the Government will move to drop the rule allowing new religious free schools to only select up to 50% of their places with reference religion, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, Andrew Copson, commented:

‘If the Government moves to scrap the requirement that religious free schools must keep at least half their places open to local children, regardless of the religion or beliefs of their parents, they will be sending a very damaging message: that an integrated society is not worth striving for, and that the will of the religious lobby trumps the best interests of our children and our country.

‘More than ever before, we have an obligation to ensure that the children within our increasingly diverse society learn to understand and respect those from backgrounds different to their own and who hold beliefs that are different to their own. Religious selection in schools – the process by which children as young as four are defined and divided by their parents’ religious beliefs – has been and continues to be a significant barrier to fostering that mutual understanding and respect.

‘We will wait to see what proposals are to be made, but if they are as reported, we will do everything we can to oppose them and ensure that the progress we have made towards a more inclusive education system is not so catastrophically set back.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact BHA Faith Schools and Education Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078 or 07970 393 680.

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

The BHA is a co-founder of the Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC).

The FAC 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 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.