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Two additional faith schools given Government approval in latest funding round

Two additional faith schools look likely to get the go-ahead from the Government as part of the latest wave of funding for free schools.

Last week, Humanists UK revealed that one Church of England faith school had been approved through Wave 14 of the Government’s free school programme and a further CofE school was also given the green light via a separate funding scheme for fully religiously selective voluntary aided (VA) schools. However, it has subsequently been announced that two further Church of England free schools – Conningbrook CE Primary in Kent and St Joseph’s CofE Primary in School in Hartlepool –  have also been given in-principle approval to open.

As free schools with a religious character, both Conningbrook and St Joseph’s will be able to select 50% of their pupils by faith and deliver religious education and collective worship from a Christian perspective. What’s more, Conningbrook will be situated on a new housing development. This means, despite the divisive nature of the education on offer and the possibility local residents may be shut out of the school by religiously discriminatory admissions, the costs of providing the site will fall on the developers to be absorbed by new homeowners.

The problems caused by opening a faith school in a new community where demand for faith-based school places has not been established have recently been starkly illustrated in Peterborough. Here, new residents of the Hampton Water development have expressed anger that the primary school approved for their newbuild development will have a Catholic character despite there being little demand for Catholic school places among families who have moved in.

Should all four newly-approved Church schools open, they will represent just over a seventh of new schools given the go-ahead in 2020/21. This figure appears vastly disproportionate when considered in light of data showing that the number of pupils currently attending CofE schools already exceeds the number of people in the Church’s entire worshipping community.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘We are thoroughly disappointed that two more faith schools will get the go-ahead very soon. When the number of worshipping Anglicans is already smaller than the number in CofE school places, four more CofE schools seems extremely difficult to justify.

‘Our communities need schools that serve the needs of all families regardless of background, not divisive faith schools that attempt to inculcate particular religious beliefs. We call on the Government to recognise this and take steps to make sure that all families have access to inclusive schools that are suitable for all regardless of religion or belief.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

View the list of free schools that have been approved or approved in principle.

Read our most recent article on anger as council rejects challenge to Catholic school unfairly imposed on newbuild community.

Read our news item on the two faith schools previously given the green light by the Government.

Read our article on data showing the number of pupils attending Church of England schools is more than the entire ‘worshipping community’.

Read more about our work on faith schools and religious selection.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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