Report recommends maintaining 50% cap on faith school admissions

By Agencies
December 14, 2017

In its annual report on the State of Children’s Rights in England, the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) has rejected the Government’s proposal to remove the 50 per cent cap on religious selection at free schools, and called for it to be kept in place. Humanists UK, which is a member of CRAE and advocates that, with regard to admissions, schools should not discriminate on grounds of faith at all, has noted that this is the latest in a long line of high-profile interventions in favour of keeping the cap.

The report, published on 13 December 2017, outlines concern that a move to end the 50 per cent cap could "entrench segregation and undermine community cohesion" and therefore recommends that "the 50 per cent cap on the number of children admitted to schools on religious grounds should remain in place for new and current faith schools". This directly reflects evidence submitted to CRAE’s 2017 consultation by Humanists UK, which branded proposals to drop the cap as ‘the very opposite of integration’.

CRAE’s recommendation comes after Humanists UK reported a number of Catholic schools to the Department for Education (DfE) over their possible flouting of education laws in pursuit of the removal of the cap. Catholic schools in several dioceses, including Westminster, have advised parents, staff and the wider school communities to campaign for the scrapping of the cap, potentially in breach of Section 407 of the Education Act 1996 which obliges schools to inform their pupils, in a fair manner, of both sides of a political debate. Humanists UK has sent a letter to MPs this week briefing them on the benefits of the 50 per cent cap and drawing their attention to what it describes as "the misleading campaign that has been conducted by the Catholic Education Service on this issue."

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, "We welcome this report by CRAE, which illustrates well the perils of removing the 50 per cent cap. Allowing faith schools to select all their pupils on grounds of religion will encourage ethnic and religious segregation and damage the access of local families to their local schools, unacceptable consequences of this proposal. We hope that the Government takes this report extremely seriously and reconsiders scrapping the cap in light of CRAE’s recommendations and the recommendations of the many others who have spoken in support of integration in the education system." 

The CRAE report also included the recommendation that exemptions made to the introduction of statutory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) across primary and secondary schools be changed. These measures allow a parent to remove a child from almost all teaching of RSE, aside from that mandated in the science National Curriculum, and for the religious background of the child to be taken into account with regard to the teaching of RSE. The report echoes Humanists UK’s evidence in arguing that "the Government should make sure that regardless of the religious character of the school, Relationships Education and Sex and Relationships Education provides children with comprehensive, accurate and unbiased information".

* Download the report State of Children's Rights in England 2017 here

* Read Humanists UK's submission to CRAE here

* CRAE http://www.crae.org.uk/

* Humanists UK https://humanism.org.uk/

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