House of Lords committee criticises move towards ‘greater social segregation within faith schools’

By agency reporter
April 22, 2018

A House of Lords committee has expressed concern that Government proposals to lift the cap on faith-based admissions "could cause greater social segregation within faith schools". In a report, published by the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Committee, the peers also praise Ofsted for "sanction[ing] schools which fail to teach about LGBT people", voices support for new legislation to clampdown on illegal faith schools, and says that faith schools must not be exempt from the requirement to promote British values.

Humanists UK has welcomed the findings and recommendations of the committee, stating that it further demonstrates the growing consensus that faith schools represent a threat to both social cohesion and children’s rights.

The report, entitled The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century, sets out to make a range of recommendations relating to the improvement of integration, mutual understanding, and social cohesion in the UK

.In a section on faith schools specifically, the report questions the extent to which some faith schools are promoting fundamental British values. Noting that ‘promoting discrimination has no place in schools’, it concludes that: "Faith schools, and other schools attended primarily by the adherents of one faith, should be no exception to the requirement to teach Shared Values of British Citizenship, still less the requirement to abide by the rule of law. We are glad to see Ofsted focusing on this important issue. They should not look the other way."

Attention is also drawn to the fact that while race and sexuality are not explicitly covered under the current definition of British values, Ofsted has nonetheless been interpreting the values to reflect the importance of promoting respect for these protected characteristics. "For example, Ofsted has sanctioned schools which fail to teach about LGBT people. This is entirely right", the report states.

On faith schools admissions, the committee adds itself to the growing list of individuals and organisations to criticise proposals to lift the 50 per cent cap on religious selection. Recognising the ‘concerns that this could cause greater social segregation within faith schools’, the Committee stresses that "Any change in the rules governing admissions criteria to faith schools should ensure that they do not increase social segregation."

Finally, support is given for the Government’s plans to crackdown on unregistered, illegal faith schools in line with recommendations made by Humanists UK for some time. The report states: "in the Integrated Communities Strategy the Government has undertaken to review its guidance to Ofsted and Local Authorities, and to consider whether Ofsted needs additional powers to tackle unregistered schools. This is a promising start. The Department for Education must ensure that unregistered schools are not used by communities as a way of avoiding learning about Shared British Values."

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, "This report reiterates what Humanists UK has been saying for decades: civic engagement and community cohesion in this country cannot be properly addressed until we have a very frank national conversation about the destructive role that faith schools play in a diverse, harmonious society. We hope the Government will consider this report carefully, particularly in its ongoing deliberations around the 50 per cent cap, and we will continue to lead the campaign against the place of divisive and discriminatory faith schools within the education system."

* Read the report The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century here

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

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