Education White Paper - Religious Schools

25 October 2005


Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society asked DfES minister Jacqui Smith at the launch of the Education White Paper about the reported plans to open over 100 Muslim schools and whether they would be as reported any quota on admissions to promote cohesion.

She responded that there were no specific plans in regard to Muslim schools or admissions quotas, but that the White Paper sought to “improve the opportunities in the system” for schools to meet parents’ requirements, including faith schools, “where there was no provision for these in the maintained system”.

Keith Porteous Wood commented that “this suggests that the green light had been given to many more religious schools and that this was a catastrophe in waiting for the future of race relations in this country.

“Is there to be any check on the kinds of religious organisations – of whatever faith - that can take over schools - or is it open house if they have enough money? Some extreme religious groups are very wealthy, and making a relatively small contribution to gain access to vulnerable children must seem like a dream come true for them. We already have right-wing evangelicals and creationists in charge of academies, now they will be allowed to get their hands on other schools.

“If these minority faith schools are not allowed to place a great deal of emphasis on religion, the parents will once more opt out for the private alternative where religious studies can take precedence over academic learning.”

“The Government claims it wants parents to choose schools rather than schools to choose parents. A third of state schools are already religious. In some areas parents often have no choice but for their children to attend a faith school. In others, they may wish to attend a religious school next door but cannot choose to do so because children from religious families have preference in admission. Parent’s choice looks set to be further eroded wit these plans.

“Local Authorities are to have a new duty to ensure fair admissions and admissions policies that promote cohesion, but it will be impossible to achieve cohesion with minority faith schools. With the free for all on admissions and many more minority faith schools, it seems only a matter of time before the only option for children in some areas will be to attend a minority faith school. In the long term, the only solution to cohesion is to make all maintained schools community schools. The Government are going in entirely the wrong direction to promote cohesion”