General Election manifestos published

May 19, 2017

The Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru parties have this week published their 2017 General Election manifestos. Manifestos from the Greens and UKIP are expected to be released next week.

The Conservative manifesto has committed the Party to scrapping the 50% religious discrimination cap that limits new faith academy schools from not selecting more than half of their pupils on religious grounds. This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister last September that she wanted the policy to be scrapped. The manifesto also repeats the false narrative that Catholic authorities face particular barriers due to the 50% religious discrimination cap. It states:

“We will replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools, instead requiring new faith schools to prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that schools.” p50

Despite launching a campaign against new grammar schools at its 2016 Autumn Conference entitled ”Education not Segregation”, the Labour manifesto makes no mention of the religious or ethnic segregation that pervades England’s school system. The Plaid Cymru manifesto also avoids any issues related to religion or belief in schools.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto makes no mention of its faith schools policy. This is despite the Party’s 2010 and 2015 manifestos stating that they wanted to ensure faith schools adopted an ‘inclusive admissions policy’ and after the Lib Dems passed new policy in March calling for religious discrimination in pupil admissions at state funded schools in England to be phased out completely.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Ethnic and religious mixing in schools makes a major contribution to boosting mutual understanding and forging bonds of trust in society, whereas segregating children sows seeds for division. It is disappointing that the manifestos published so far have not sought to address these issues.

‘Most other developed countries with state funded faith schools – including many with Catholic schools, and those of other religions and denominations – do not allow schools to religiously discriminate in admissions. Rather than allowing Britain to sleep walk into problems for future generations, our leaders should take inspiration from such inclusive approaches.’

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