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Legal challenge to plans for non-church school to be merged into faith school

A legal challenge to proposals for a merger between a state school without a religious character and a state faith school will be heard by the High Court in July, it has been reported. The merger will result in one state faith school which pupils at both former schools will find themselves attending, a decision which one local parent has decided to judicially review. Humanists UK has stated that the decision demonstrates how frequently the privileged position of religion in the education system is prioritised over the rights of parents and children.

Last September a multi-academy trust (MAT) called ‘Inspiration Trust’ announced that Trafalgar College, a free school in East Anglia, would merge with another of the Trust’s schools, Great Yarmouth Charter Academy. The decision was reportedly taken due to insufficient demand for places at Trafalgar College, despite the fact that it opened less than two years ago. Now, a parent at Trafalgar College has judicially reviewed the Department for Education’s decision to allow the merger to go ahead, or more specifically the agreement that the resulting school will have a religious designation.

In England, there are two ways for schools to merge. Either both schools close and a proposal to open a new school is made, or one of the schools is closed and the displaced pupils are accommodated at the other. Great Yarmouth Charter Academy is a Christian faith school, but Trafalgar College does not have a religious character. The plans, which are reported to have been given the go ahead by the Government, will see Trafalgar College close, meaning that pupils will be forced to attend a faith school instead.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented:

‘If reports of this case are accurate, the parents of children at Trafalgar College have every right to feel aggrieved. Many parents choose to send their children to schools without a religious character specifically to avoid religious influence over their education, so being told that your child’s non-church school will become a faith school is likely to cause considerable consternation.

‘The decision also underlines once again the privileged position that faith schools have in our education system. It seems clear to us that when two schools are to be merged, the more inclusive one ought to absorb the other. Here, the opposite decision has been taken and we hope the High Court will take a dim view of this when the case is heard next month’.

Notes

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

Read more about our work on faith schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/faith-schools/

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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