Response from Faith schools on government cap

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Response to faith schools decision

The government has announced that it will not lift the cap on faith based free schools, which prevents them from admitting more than 50% of pupils based on religion. But money will be made available to build new Voluntary Aided faith schools, which can give preference to children based on their religion, with no cap.

 Statement from the Most Rev Malcom McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Department for Education & Formation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales:

“In their General Election manifesto, the Conservative Party made a commitment to the Catholic community that the unfair rule, in effect, stopping the opening of new Catholic free schools would be lifted. Today the Government has broken this promise, dropped the pledge they made to our country’s 6 million Catholics and ignored the tens of thousands of Catholics who campaigned on this issue. This U-turn disregards the Government’s own data showing the 50% cap doesn’t create diversity, and sides with a vocal minority of campaigners who oppose the existence of Church schools. Catholic schools are popular with parents of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds, despite this we will remain barred from participating in the free school programme. The Catholic Church has had a long and positive relationship with the state in the provision of education and we see today’s decision as a regressive step in this historic partnership. We remain committed to our vision of education which consistently delivers high-quality schooling and contributes to the common good. Therefore we will continue to work with the Department for Education to address the urgent demand for new Catholic schools. This commitment means we will pursue the possibility of new Catholic voluntary aided schools despite the direction of travel for nearly a decade being towards academisation. Voluntary aided schools are an important part of the Catholic sector and it is significant that the Government has singled out Catholic education as an area to fund directly. This is rightly in recognition of the importance of Catholic schools to local communities and the contribution they make to the wellbeing of society.”

The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Rev Nigel Genders:

“The Church of England has a bold vision for education that is deeply Christian, serving the common good. We provide schools that enable all children to flourish and demand for places continues to be high. We want to develop new schools so more families can access this excellent education and our commitment when we do so remains to serve the local community, with the majority of places being allocated irrespective of faith background. Today’s announcement about the faith cap does not impact on that commitment. As well as embracing the opportunities of academies and free schools, we have a strong track record of providing around 1,700 VA schools and welcome the opportunity to consider developing more of them.”

Andrew Copson, Humanists UK Chief Executive:

“The decision to keep the cap on faith-based selection is a victory for integration, mutual understanding, and the interests of children. It is also a significant victory for Humanists UK and its supporters, who have successfully led the national campaign against the removal of the cap and in favour of open, integrated schools. If this vision is to be fully realised, then attention must now turn to preventing new, fully segregated schools by another means, which the Government has now unwisely created. The need for the Government to save face, or to appease a handful of religious organisations and their unreasonable demands, should not be prioritised over what’s best for children and society.”

The President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush:

“We welcome the Government’s commitment to facilitating the opening of more faith schools, including Jewish schools, through designated funding provided to local authorities. The popularity of faith schools with parents reflects their academic results, ethos, behavioural standards and the contribution that their pupils go on to make in wider society. It is no accident that one in every three schools in Britain is a faith school. However, we are disappointed that the Government has gone back on a manifesto commitment to drop the 50% cap on faith-based admissions for new free schools of a religious character. Whatever the intentions behind it, and while the cap does have some supporters in our own community, the 50% cap has not been proven to promote cohesion in practice. We have long argued that there are better ways to promote cohesion and that these should be considered instead. We would ask the Government to think again and work with faith communities and others on ways to promote cohesion while supporting a sector which remains popular with taxpaying parents and pupils alike.”

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Maidenhead Synagogue and President, Accord Coalition for inclusive education:

“This is a major victory for social integration over religious discrimination. It both protects an important educational principle and sends a message to other types of faith schools that they will no longer be allowed to create educational ghettoes that both limit the horizons of their pupils and fails to prepare them for wider society. The hope is that the 50% cap will now be extended to all faiths schools.”


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