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Previous Education Secretary Justine Greening slams move to lift 50% cap on religious selection

Previous Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening MP

Previous Education Secretary Justine Greening MP has spoken out against the Government’s plans to lift the 50% cap on faith-based admissions at free schools. The move would hinder schools from being ‘places that bring children together’, she said.

Humanists UK, which leads the national campaign against the removal of the 50% cap and against the divisive role played by faith schools more generally, has stated that the opposition of the Education Secretary under whom the proposals were first announced should be the final straw for the proposals.

The so-called 50% cap requires all new and existing free schools to leave at least half of their places open to all local children, irrespective of religion or belief. It has been in place since 2010, and while many – Humanists UK included – believe that 100% of places at state schools should be equally open to all, the cap has represented an important first step away from England’s discriminatory and segregationist admissions system.

Proposals to remove the cap were first made in September 2016 by Theresa May, and despite being the Secretary of State responsible at the time, Justine Greening has long been thought to oppose the move. Her most recent comments have now confirmed this:

‘I think schools should be places that bring children together and, ideally, that prepare them for life in modern Britain, and modern Britain is a very diverse place in many different ways actually.

‘So, from my perspective, I don’t think removing the faith cap is something that particularly helps that.’

Greening went on to say that whilst the 50% cap ‘had some shortcomings… I’m not sure that that particularly means you necessary need to remove it.’ This was a point made by Humanists UK in its November 2016 research – and repeatedly since – which demonstrated that ethnic and religious diversity had massively increased in the majority of schools subject to the cap.

Despite the clear evidence of the cap’s benefits, however, Greening successor as Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, has stated his intention to press ahead with plans to remove it.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘It is difficult to recall a Government policy in recent years that has been so vigorously opposed by the Secretary of State who was, in theory, responsible for proposing it. If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now: plans to remove the 50% cap are as unpopular within Government as they are with the public – even the Education Secretary who spent more than a year analysing the evidence on it thinks it’s a terrible idea.

‘The Government must finally take heed of this latest call, and all those that have come before now, and drop these divisive and discriminatory proposals.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on the 50% cap:

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaigning against faith schools:

Read Humanists UK’s briefings on the 50% cap:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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