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Mayor of London slams Government’s anti-integration ‘faith’ school proposals

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says the Government’s proposals will make ‘integration less likely’.

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and London’s Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement Matthew Ryder QC have criticised the Government’s proposals to increase the extent to which ‘faith’ schools in England are allowed to religiously discriminate in their admission arrangements. The proposals were described as ‘a threat to the drive to pursue greater integration in our schools’.

In November the London Assembly voted to oppose Government plans to drop the existing requirement that all religious free schools keep at least half of their places open to local children irrespective of religion or belief. In a motion proposed by Tom Copley AM, the Assembly voted to recognise that ‘The Government’s own data show that religious schools which are 100% selective by faith are less diverse in terms of both race and social class than religious schools where the 50% cap is in place.’

Now, in response to the motion, Sadiq Khan has stated that ‘the government should not be bringing forward measures that make integration less likely’, adding that while ‘schools have an important role to play in bringing communities together’, the ‘removal of the 50% cap for religious free schools without suitable measures to replace it will make this less likely.’

Building on the Mayor’s remarks, London’s Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement, Matthew Ryder QC, made the following statement:

‘The mayor and I share the view that it is imperative that every effort is made to encourage people of different backgrounds to mix as much as possible, and this is true in our schools as it is in workplaces and communities. We are therefore concern that the Government’s proposals to remove the 50 per cent cap for religious free schools could represent a threat to the drive to pursue greater integration in our schools.  

‘[F]aith schools in London have lower proportions of pupils on Free School Meals than other schools, and Professor Ted Cantle of the Institute of Community Cohesion Foundation has voiced his concerns that religiously-selective schools are less accessible to children from poorer backgrounds. This must therefore be of concern to those of us who believe we should be striving to create more avenues for social integration, not fewer.’

Welcoming the Deputy Mayor’s comments, Tom Copley AM said, ‘Perhaps more than any other city in the world, London is a place in which people from a variety of different communities can live together, work together, and learn both with and from one another. Our schools should reflect this by bringing children of different backgrounds together, not dividing them up by the religion of their parents. History has shown that when diversity is seen as a weakness rather than a strength, everybody loses out. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Government appears to be doing in making these proposals.”

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘City Hall is absolutely right to be standing up to the Government’s divisive and discriminatory proposals. London is one of the most diverse cities anywhere in the world, and all the stronger for it, yet the Government seems to think that the best way to celebrate this diversity is to segregate children from a range of different backgrounds into closed, single-faith enclaves. This is not only wrong-headed, it threatens social cohesion and is hugely damaging to the promotion of mutual understanding and respect. If the Government cares about these things, as it claims to, it must reconsider its plans.’

Notes      

For further comment or information please contact BHA Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 0207 324 3078.

Research conducted by the BHA in September last year found that contrary to the Government’s claims, ethnic integration in schools has significantly improved as a result of the 50% cap. Further details can be found here: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/09/30/new-evidence-shows-government-proposal-to-allow-100-religious-selection-in-schools-will-lead-to-increased-segregation/

Read the Deputy Mayor’s full comments on the proposals: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/London-Assembly-motion-re-faith-schools.pdf

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘London Assembly vote pits them against Number 10 plans for more religious selection in state schools’ : https://humanism.org.uk/2016/11/02/breaking-news-london-assembly-vote-pits-them-against-number-10-plans-for-more-religious-selection-in-state-schools/

See the BHA’s news item ‘Strong majority opposed to plans for school admissions on basis of religion’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/11/02/strong-majority-opposed-to-plans-for-school-admissions-on-basis-of-religion/

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 Lecturers, British 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 Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond 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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