Faith schools and fair admissions

Comprehensive Future campaigns for an end to selection on ability and aptitude and for fair admissions.  In June this year another campaign related to school admissions was launched.  The aim of the Fair Admissions Campaign is for all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief.

The campaign has the support of many organisations including the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

This coalition of several organisations is united in the belief that ‘faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion’. Professor Ted Cantle, author of the Cantle Report into the 2001 race riots and supporter of the campaign found that schools with religious admission requirements are ‘automatically a source of division’, which contribute to different communities leading ‘parallel lives’.

The Fair Admissions Campaign aims to achieve its goal –

  • through national campaigning;
  • by stimulating and supporting local opposition to such selection through local campaign groups, individuals writing to their MPs and councillors and by complaints to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator; and
  • by supporting parents, carers, pupils and teachers who are victims of discrimination as a consequence of the current system.

There have been attempts in the past to limit the percentage of pupils which faith schools select, notably in the Lords in 2006 by Lord Kenneth Baker, a previous education Secretary of State.

Around 30% of primary schools and 20% of secondary schools are faith schools, not all of these will necessarily select on faith. Recently the British Humanist Association has raised a concern about a report that the Church of England will be able to take over community schools and appoint governors.