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Faith Schools: Admissions

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Storey Lord Storey Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Education)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the consultation on renewing the faith schools' selection cap, what plans they have for developing religious and ethnic integration in the event that the existing 50 per cent cap on religious selection is removed from free schools.

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The 50 per cent cap on faith admissions to faith free schools has not resulted in mixed intakes in these schools. We are exploring through the Schools that work for everyone consultation alternative ways for ensuring such schools are inclusive in their outlook and attractive to parents of all faiths and none. All schools are already expected to promote fundamental British values, including mutual respect and tolerance of people of other faiths and none and all state-funded schools are also required to promote community cohesion.

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David Pollock
Posted on 30 Nov 2016 10:59 am (Report this annotation)

Lord Nash claims that “the 50 per cent cap on faith admissions to faith free schools has not resulted in mixed intakes in these schools.” This is simply UNTRUE.

While the cap has had little impact on boosting integration in the small number of non-Christian schools (unsurprising given that few non-Muslim/Hindu etc parents are likely to choose a Muslim/Hindu etc school for their children, regardless of what religious selection criteria are in place) the cap has had brought about a very significant improvement in integration in Christian free schools, which make up the overwhelming majority of religious free schools.

Christian free schools opened while the 50% cap has been in place are significantly less likely to be overwhelmingly ‘white’ than religious schools that are fully selective:

· 63% of pupils at CofE free schools are white, compared to 78% at fully religiously selective CofE schools.
· 55% of pupils at ‘other Christian’ schools are white compared to 85% at fully religiously selective ‘other Christian’ schools.

The cap on religious selection at free schools has also led to a remarkable increase in the access of Asian families to their local schools, and as a result to a big improvement in the ethnic diversity of Christian schools:

· Only 3% of pupils at ‘other Christian’ schools that are fully religiously selective are Asian, while nearly a fifth (19%) of pupils at ‘other Christian’ free schools are Asian.
· Only 6% of pupils at CofE schools that are fully religiously selective are Asian, while 15% of pupils at CofE free schools are Asian.

The Government is in danger of falling for a Roman Catholic con trick. The RC Church claims that its internal canon law prevents it opening free schools subject to a cap of 50% RC admissions, but there is no such law in canons 793 – 806 which deal with schools. Indeed, the official Catholic International Education Office says in a current paper that a ‘Catholic school is an inclusive school, founded in intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, a non-discriminatory school, open to all, especially the poorest’. It goes on to stress that ‘the Catholic school is anything but a communitarian school’.

With polls showing the majority (63%) of Catholics against any religious selection of pupils – which anyway does not exist in RC schools in most of Europe – and most private Catholic schools in the UK imposing no religious test, it is time for the Government to draw back from a change that would reinforce religious ghettoes for our children.