Monday, November 29, 2010

BHA: Gove's plans to reduce admissions safeguards will make faith schools 'a law unto themselves'

BHA: Gove’s plans to reduce admissions safeguards will make faith schools ‘a law unto themselves’

Posted: 25 Nov 2010 02:07 PM PST

The British Humanist Association has warned that government proposals to weaken measures aimed at securing fairer schools admissions will lead to greater discrimination by faith schools.

The new education white paper published yesterday includes plans to remove the duty on local authorities to report on schools’ compliance with the admissions code, statutory rules designed to ensure fair admissions arrangements for state-funded schools.

While the code still allows faith schools to discriminate on religious grounds, it forbids them from interviewing applicants, requesting donations or asking questions about parents’ marital status, provisions which faith schools have been accused of flouting.

The duty to produce the reports, which are submitted annually to the office of the schools adjudicator, was introduced in 2008 after government research found that many schools – voluntary-aided faith schools in particular – were breaking the code.

Yesterday’s white paper also proposes scaling back the code itself so that it is ‘less prescriptive’.

The proposals come just weeks after the chief schools adjudicator Ian Craig warned that many faith schools’ admissions rules were still discriminating against poor and immigrant children to favour those from the middle classes.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Local authority reports play an important part in monitoring compliance with the admissions code, which is one of very few positive measures to curb the discrimination experienced by children applying to faith schools. While we call for religious criteria to be abolished from admissions procedures altogether, the code does at least provide some protection for pupils and their families.’

‘Faith schools have for many years been accused of flouting the code by prioritising more able or better off pupils, practices confirmed this month by the chief schools adjudicator himself. In addition, we’ve recently heard influential religious figures calling for the power to allocate school places on the basis of parents’ marital status. To scrap local authorities’ duty to report on compliance with the code – and to thin down the code itself – will effectively make faith schools a law unto themselves.’

Related articles:

1.       Gove called on to scrap restrictive law on compulsory collective worship in schools

2.      BHA: priest’s suggestion that children of unmarried couples should be turned away from Catholic schools is ‘deeply unjust’

3.      Minister falls for ‘easily-dispelled myths’ about religious schools



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