NSS asks minister to correct statements on faith school cap

Posted: Thu, 9th May 2024

Minister's claim that plans to remove limits on faith-based admissions won't affect existing schools is inaccurate, NSS says.

NSS asks minister to correct statements on faith school cap

The National Secular Society has asked the minister responsible for faith schools to correct the record after she inaccurately represented plans to remove the cap on faith-based admissions at free schools.

During a House of Lords debate, minister Diana Barran claimed plans announced last week make "no change whatever to existing schools", and that the "6,700 faith schools that exist today" will "not be affected".

However, consultation documents for the plans explicitly state that part one of the proposals is to "remove the 50% cap on faith admissions for new and existing free schools", and that planned changes would apply to "all free schools designated with a religious character, including open schools".

The changes would mean that almost one hundred existing free schools with a designated religious character in England would be eligible to apply for a change to their funding agreement, allowing them to select 100% of their pupils based on faith when oversubscribed.

Writing to the minister, the NSS said it was "important that Members of Parliament are not misled into thinking that existing schools are not affected by what is being proposed".

Members of the House of Lords also criticised the plan to remove the cap. Liberal Democrat peer Lorely Burt said the "retrograde step" would "diminish diversity and inclusiveness, increase racial segregation and further disadvantage poorer families, non-religious families, and families of the 'wrong' religion". Former education secretary Kenneth Baker described it as an "absurd proposal".

Despite dividing children by religion and evidence that faith schools accept disproportionately fewer children from low income families, children with special educational needs and disabilities, and children in care, Barran said she believed they were "extremely inclusive".

Religious admissions have also been shown to cause increased ethnic segregation.

NSS: 'Government must not misrepresent plans to scrap the cap'

NSS spokesperson Jack Rivington said: "We hope the minister will correct the claim that existing schools would not be affected by plans to abolish limits on faith-based admissions. Some clearly will.

"The consultation is quite clear that existing free schools would be able to apply to select 100% of their pupils based on their families' religion.

"Plans to remove the cap on faith-based admissions will exacerbate the harms religious selection have been shown to cause. The Government should abandon them."

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Tags: School admissions