Faith schools: Catholics and secularists criticise new plans
The Government has abandoned plans to lift the 50 per cap on faith admissions in new free schools in a move that has infuriated Catholics.
Equally angry are secularists, who, while welcoming the retention of the cap, are appalled that the government plans instead to give faith groups extra support and 90 percent of the capital funding needed to open new mainly faith-based voluntary-aided schools.
The Catholic Church, according to this report, sees the move as a betrayal. The Reverend Malcolm McMahon, above, the Archbishop of Liverpool, said:
In their general election manifesto, the Conservative Party made a commitment to the Catholic community that the unfair rule effectively stopping the opening of new Catholic free schools would be lifted.
Today [May 11] the government has broken this promise, dropped the pledge they made to our country’s six million Catholics and ignored the tens of thousands of Catholics who campaigned on this issue.
The National Secular Society, which campaigned equally hard to keep the cap, said the u-turn on the lifting of the admissions cap was “positive news for integration” but called plans to provide funds for local authorities to create more VA faith schools “regressive”.
Stephen Evans, NSS Chief Executive, above, said:
The decision not to scrap the 50 percent cap for faith admissions in free schools is positive – and a victory for the work the National Secular Society and our supporters have done to campaign against it.
However, encouraging more voluntary-aided schools, which are able to select up to 100 percent of pupils on the basis of faith, is a regressive step and a back-door attempt to expand faith school education and increase the number of school places allocated on the basis of faith.
Facilitating more voluntary-aided schools will lead to a negative impact on social cohesion, foster the religious and social segregation of children, and undermine choice and equality.
Voluntary-aided faith schools are discriminatory, antithetical to British values and harmful not only to cohesion, but also the standard of education and well-being amongst their pupils.
Children from all faith backgrounds should be educated together and allowed to develop their own beliefs independently.
The NSS launched a “No more faith schools” petition earlier this year, and I urge readers to sign it.
It’s reported here that the Department of Education announced that the £270-million committed to its free school budget would now be used to create 110 new schools – both free schools and VA – by 2020.
The Church of England’s Chief Education officer the Rev Nigel Genders welcomed the announcement.
As well as embracing the opportunities of academies and free schools, we have a strong track record of providing 1,700 VA schools and welcome the opportunity to consider developing more of them.
Humanists UK welcomed the decision to retain the faith cap. However, it expressed regret that:
The government still feels obliged to appease the unreasonable demands of a handful of religious organisations by offering alternative routes for opening fully segregated schools.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn