One of education's most powerful features is the ability to bring people together and to open opportunities for our children, no matter their background. What sort of message do our schools send to children when they discriminate based on religion? An inclusive education system today is the best chance we have of creating an inclusive society tomorrow.
What's the problem?
When voluntary aided faith schools and religious academies are oversubscribed, they are permitted to use religious criteria to give priority in admissions to children, or children of parents, who practice a particular religion. In many cases schools will require evidence of baptism or religious practice from a minister of religion.
We advocate for an end to the exemption from equality law that permits state funded 'faith schools' to religiously select children in this way.
Such admissions arrangements disadvantage local children whose parents are non-religious or of a different religion to the school's religious designation. Many parents find that because of their lack of religious belief, they are unable to send their children to their local state school, which is often the most appropriate school for their needs.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that the discriminatory admissions arrangements operated by some schools, in addition to being unfair, encourage social segregation and impede community cohesion.
For these reasons the State of Children's Rights in England 2017 report, by The Children's Rights Alliance for England, called for the camp to be retained.
A secular approach to school admissions would create a more inclusive education system that values and caters for all pupils equally.
Help us to oppose plans for a new wave of 100% religiously selective schools
The Government has announced plans to change many of the rules surrounding admissions to, and the opening of, new faith based free schools and academies.
These proposals include allowing new and existing faith based free schools to religiously select 100% of their pupil intake.
Religious selection in schools is discriminatory, entrenches religious segregation in wider society, and often leads to ethnic and socio-economic segregation too.
In a society as diverse as ours, rather than facilitating segregation along religious lines, the Government should be doing everything it can to ensure that children of all faiths and none are educated together in inclusive schools.
The Government says that these proposals are intended to "promote inclusivity", but it should be obvious to everyone that facilitating a new generation of 100% religiously selective schools is, by definition, inimical to this aim.
The proposals are intended to generate a new wave of faith-based schools. A proliferation of faith schools will impede the integration of religious minorities, harm social cohesion, increase levels of discrimination in a state funded schools, undermine children and young people's religious freedoms and further disenfranchise the growing non-religious majority in this country who are increasingly seeing their options for a non-faith-based education for their child limited.
The time has come to end religious discrimination and segregation in our schools – not extend it.
Please urge your MP to oppose these proposals and encourage them to instead call for schools to be open and inclusive, catering for all local children regardless of their religious or non-religious beliefs.
What are we doing?
We re one of the leading organisations against the Government's proposals to scrap the 50% cap on faith based admissions to free schools. See our Submission To DFE Schools That Work For Everyone Consultation and related news below.
A major aim of our education campaign is to end, not extend, religious discrimination in school admissions. We publicise the effects that faith-based admissions to state schools has on discrimination, social selection and segregation. We challenge schools when their faith based admissions go beyond the level of discrimination permitted by the law.
What you can do:
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- Changes To Faith Based Admissions And New Faith Based Academies (PDF, 568 Kb)
This briefing addresses the Government’s plan to change the rules surrounding admissions to, and the opening of, new faith-based free schools and academies, including allowing new and existing faith-based free schools to religiously select their entire pupil intake.
- Submission To DFE Schools That Work For Everyone Consultation (PDF, 403 Kb)
NSS response to the Government's 2016 consultation on scrapping the 50% on religious discrimination in Free School admissions.
- Majority Of All Religious And Belief Groups Oppose Religious Selection In School Admissions (PDF, 250 Kb)
In November 2016 a Populus poll commissioned by the Accord Coalition and the British Humanist Association questioned voters and found overwhelming opposition to selection by faith, including among all religion and belief groups.
- Faith School Admissions Campaign Briefing (PDF, 399 Kb)
Many faith schools1 are granted exemptions from equality legislation which stipulates that schools cannot discriminate against pupils because of their religion or belief.
- Admissions Response Form (PDF, 348 Kb)
NSS response to the 2011 Consultation on the Changes to the Admissions Framework