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.
On Monday, the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced that, due to the lobbying of religious groups, she will seek to prevent civil society organisations from objecting to schools’ admission arrangements. The ban is a thinly veiled attack on the BHA, and is designed, in Nicky Morgan’s own words, to ‘stop vexatious complaints against faith schools by secularist campaign groups’.
The report we published last year on behalf of the Fair Admissions Campaign revealed that almost every religiously selective school in the country was breaking the law, unfairly and illegally denying parents and children access to their local schools by cynically manipulating their intakes.
The violations included discriminating on the basis of race and gender, prioritising children whose parents are able to arrange flowers or clean at church, and even policing whether or not a child’s parents are having sex when their mothers are menstruating. Without our objections, taken on behalf of parents, all of this would still be happening.
Yet despite the fact that the Schools Adjudicator upheld almost all of our complaints, the Government still feels justified in describing our work as ‘vexatious’, and criticising us for standing up for parents as they pander once again to religious lobbyists.
What’s the BHA is doing?
Throughout the process of submitting our objections to the Schools Adjudicator and compiling our report, we met with Department for Education (DfE) officials, shared our findings, collaboratively discussed potential improvements to our plans, and shared our final report well ahead of its publication. In fact, just last week, we had a meeting at the DfE to discuss how the findings of the report were being taken forward. Now, having repeatedly reassured us over the past two years that it was absolutely our right to object and initially welcoming our efforts to identify weaknesses in the system, they’ve moved to ban us from doing so.
We’ve written to the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan urging her to reconsider, and we’ve sent a briefing to every member of the House of Commons and House of Lords encouraging them to oppose the ban. We will be contacting MPs and peers over the coming days and weeks to ensure our concerns are given a full airing in Parliament.
How you can help
Please write to your MP today and ask them to make your concerns known to Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan. We strongly recommend personalising your letter, as this will encourage your MP to listen and add a lot more weight to your argument.