Take action! The UK Government is moving to prevent us and other civil society organisations from voicing concerns about the many problems that parents face as a result of discriminatory religious selection within the English school admissions system. We are encouraging everyone to write to their MPs to speak out, and we’ve provided a facility through which it’s possible to do so.
Are you facing the prospect of your child being unable to gain admittance to their local school, because of religious selection? Or have you had to game the system in order to get them in? Are you happy to live in a society in which children are discriminated against on these grounds, while parents feel compelled to behave in this manner?
The Fair Admissions Campaign is a new campaign which aims to open up all state-funded schools in England and Wales to all children, without regard to religion. The Campaign launched in June 2013, and is also already being supported by the Accord Coalition, 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, the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and a number of local campaign groups. The BHA is on the steering group for the Campaign.
Schools should be a beacon of fairness, yet the system is mired in discrimination. If you agree, please get involved with the campaign at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/
About the Campaign
The Campaign is different from work we already do in that it is solely focused on eliminating religious selection in state-funded school admissions and the religious, ethnic and social segregation it causes. By concentrating on this single issue, the Campaign is building a bigger coalition than has been seen before. It is also stimulating further grassroots opposition from parents, individual campaigners, and local groups.
There are many reasons why the campaign thinks state funded faith schools should not select on the grounds of faith. These are listed on its website and include:
- the damage to community cohesion caused by dividing children on the grounds of religion
- that religious selection amounts to legalised discrimination on the basis of belief or practice, which is increasingly unacceptable to many people of faith and of no faith on equality grounds in our plural society
- that this country is an outlier internationally, with very few other developed countries employing similar practices
- that many faith schools choose not to select children by faith and yet are still able to maintain their ethos – proving that selection is not necessary in order to do so.
An innovation by the Campaign is that is has mapped English secondary schools by their religious admissions policies, as well as looking at how socio-economically representative they are compared to other schools in their local areas. People are able to compare their local schools to each other, as well as compare different areas and Dioceses. A piece of work of this nature has never been undertaken before – it has helped expose just how widespread faith-based admissions are, and how much they contribute to socio-economic segregation.
Another piece of work the Campaign has undertaken is revealing ‘near-universal non-compliance’ with the School Admissions Code by religiously selective state secondary schools, through systematic objections to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator about a sample of such schools. The resultant report, An Unholy Mess, details well over a thousand Code breaches, with near-universal non-compliance amongst schools. This includes some very serious Code breaches, such as schools breaking the law by selecting on the basis of race and/or gender; selecting on the basis of whether or not parents arrange flowers or help clean at church; and in one case, a school policing whether or not a child’s parents are having sex when their mothers are menstruating. The findings suggest that religiously selective secondary schools across England may be breaking the Admissions Code some 12,000 times between them.
Get involved in the Campaign
There are three ways you can get involved:
- You can set up a local campaign group.
- You can also write to your MP, AM, Councillors and newspapers.
- You can complain to the Schools Adjudicator if you believe a school is breaking the Admissions Code.
The BHA’s position on ‘faith’ schools and admissions
The BHA does not believe that the state should fund religious schools at all. We believe that religious discrimination in admissions and employment is wrong and that schools should not bring children up in a particular religion when they are too young to make up their own minds on such matters. Nor is it fair when a child is sent to a religious school against their parents’ wishes. We think all this is especially objectionable given the involvement of state funds. If faith-based admissions policies, employment policies and curricula were to cease, then we would not see the point in faith groups continuing to run schools at all, as it would only lead to risks of institutional proselytising. We will continue to work to tackle all these areas, with our dedicated campaigner against ‘faith’ schools leading the efforts.
However, we are happy to support this narrower campaign on just this one key issue, first of all because it furthers our aims of ending religious discrimination and segregation in state schools; and secondly because we know how important this particular topic is. We know this from the large numbers of you who contact us feeling discriminated against when you are unable to get your children into your local school, or the best school in your area, as a result of faith-based admissions policies. 73% of the public agree that this practice is wrong. It is time we put a stop to it.