MPs urge Government not to jettison anti-discrimination cap at new faith schools

November 10, 2017

Six MPs from four different political parties have urged that the current cap which prevents faith free schools from religiously selecting more than half of their pupils should be continued.

The move is in response to the danger that faith free schools, which can currently only select up to 50% of their pupils from one particular faith, may be allowed to dispense with inclusivity and become mono-religious. This had been one of the pledges of the Conservative Party in its 2017 Election manifesto, but has yet to be implemented

The MPs have made their call by jointly tabling an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons which has been published today. The motion calls for the 50% discrimination cap to be retained to boost religious and ethnic mixing between children in schools in the interests of social cohesion and integration.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Ensuring young people grow up with and learn alongside those from different backgrounds is the most effective way we can promote trust and mutual understanding in our increasingly diverse society. The motion highlights both the importance of tackling religious division in the school system, and the breadth of support for making schools more inclusive.’

‘The 50% cap has worked well and signals schools should cater to children from different backgrounds. It should be retained, and expanded to other faith schools. Removing it would send a terrible message that it is acceptable for schools to segregate and create ethnic silos.’

The motion follows an announcement last September that the 50% cap would be scrapped. However, over the summer some educationalists have speculated that the proposal may not go ahead, including the Head of Ofsted Amanda Spielmanand Director of the New Schools Network Toby Young.

The motion has been tabled by two Conservative, two Labour and one Lib Dem and Green MP. The signatories are:

  • former Foreign Affairs Select Committee Chair, Crispin Blunt MP
  • ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon. Kenneth Clarke MP
  • Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Norman Lamb MP
  • Co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Caroline Lucas MP
  • former Shadow Minister for Children, Lisa Nandy MP
  • Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee (1999 to 2010) and Lay Canon at Wakefield Cathedral, Barry Sheerman MP

The signatories represent all political parties with one or more MP in England. They draw attention to the cross party support for the popular 50% discrimination cap, which has been cultivated by different parties. 

In May this year Accord commissioned an opinion poll, conducted by Populus, which found 80% of voters preferred that the 50% discrimination cap was continued rather than scrapped. The Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, told MPs on Monday that she would update the Commons about the future of the cap ‘in due course’.

 

Notes

The 50% cap has been cultivated by different parties
Most faith academy schools approved by the Labour Government under Ed Ball’s tenure as Education Secretary (June 2007 to May 2010) were subject to a 50% religious selection in admissions cap.

In 2010 the Coalition Government launched the free schools programme and stipulated that faith free schools would not be allowed to religiously select more than half their pupils. The 2011 Education Act amended procedures for the opening of new state funded schools and introduced a legal presumption that entirely new state funded schools in England should be free schools.

In the summer of 2015 the Conservative Government announced it would continue with the 50% faith free school discrimination cap ‘… as an important way of supporting these schools to be inclusive and to meet the needs of a broad mix of families.’

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