The Accord Coalition has welcomed the support offered by the Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, and his Cabinet colleague, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Rt Hon Vincent Cable MP, for a proposed new voluntary aided Catholic school to only select up to half of its pupils on religious grounds.
Currently, most faith schools, including all state maintained Catholic schools, can select all of their pupils on the grounds of religion if oversubscribed. However, after the current coalition Government was formed in 2010 a new policy was made that all new Academy faith schools that did not replace a pre-existing state maintained faith school would only be able to select up to half of their pupils on the basis of religion.
However, in response to a proposal in his Twickenham constituency for a new voluntary aided Catholic school, Vince Cable has written to Michael Gove MP suggesting that the new school also only select half of it pupils on religious grounds. In his letter of reply Mr Gove supported this move, stating that:
“…the proposals are for a school to be a voluntary aided school within the local authority’s remit. As you know, that means that the school will be able to admit pupils on the grounds of faith, but the 50% non-faith provision for the school’s admissions will not apply. The suggestion that the school takes on a similar provision voluntarily seems very sensible to me, and I would welcome such a move”.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said, ‘Although no state funded school should discriminate on the grounds of religion, we are encouraged that both the Secretary of State for Education and his Cabinet colleague would welcome the 50% religious selection limit to be extended, albeit voluntarily, to the voluntary aided faith school sector.
‘The freedom that faith schools have to discriminate in the selection of pupils on religious grounds has long passed its ‘sell by’ date. The signal being provided by two such senior Government Ministers should send out a powerful message that such religious discrimination is increasingly viewed as an outmoded and unwelcome practice on its way out.
‘In the meantime however, we hope that that Church authorities, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, will take on board the 50% suggestion, and ensure that half of the places in any of their new schools will serve members of the local community, regardless of their beliefs.’
The proposed new voluntary aided Catholic school is being opposed by the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, which has been endorsed by the Accord Coalition and wants all new schools in the local borough to be open to all, regardless of religious belief or practice: http://www.richmondinclusiveschools.org.uk/.
An article on this story has also appeared to today’s edition of the Times Educational Supplement at http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6202903