Stop faith school amalgamation, school staff tell council

Posted: Mon, 20th May 2024

Letter from Charlotte Sharman staff says there is "overwhelming parental consensus" against the proposed faith school.

Stop faith school amalgamation, school staff tell council

Twenty-five members of staff at Charlotte Sharman school have written to Southwark Council voicing opposition to amalgamation with CofE school.

The proposals would merge Charlotte Sharman, which has no religious character, with St Jude's Church of England Primary School. The resulting school would be a voluntary aided (VA) Church of England faith school.

The letter from Charlotte Sharman staff says there is "overwhelming parental consensus" against the proposed faith school and parents' voices had been "actively ignored".

It cites a survey of parents at the school in which 80% of respondents opposed the move to become a Church of England school. Less than 20% said they would keep their children at the school if the proposals went ahead.

The letter says the statistics highlight the need to "reconsider the faith status" of the new school in order to retain pupil numbers and provide a school that "genuinely serves the needs of the community".

Charlotte Sharman has 162 pupils and 78% of its are places filled. By contrast, St Jude's has 79 pupils and 39% of its places are filled.

The letter says the data "clearly shows" the community requires a non-faith school. "Parents are choosing to send their children to our school rather than St Jude's", it adds.

The local diocese is understood to have demanded the new school adopt St Jude's religious character.

The letter also expresses concern that faith schools are permitted to discriminate against staff in hiring, promotion and salary setting.

St Jude's admissions policy reserves 20 places each year exclusively for "pupils whose families are faithful and regular worshippers in an Anglican or other Christian church" if oversubscribed.

A petition set up by Southwark National Education Union to defend the secular ethos of Charlotte Sharman has attracted over 900 signatures.

It notes Charlotte Sharman "serves the diverse community" of Elephant and Castle and is "an inclusive, community school" without any emphasis on any particular religious belief.

Last month, the National Secular Society revealed school governors had tried to downplay the strength of feeling against the resulting faith school.

Seventy-four percent of respondents to a consultation on the merger opposed the plans, and 67 comments were made against the religious character of the new school.

Respondents said "they would have chosen a faith school" had they wanted a religious education for their child. Fears were expressed around "Christian worship being forced on the children". The merger was seen by some as "not promoting the inclusive ethos that is suitable for children of all backgrounds".

A number of respondents said they might remove their children from the school "because of the faith status", while others said it was "unjust" to impose religion on those who "have intentionally chosen a non-faith school".

These remarks were removed from the final version of the governors' full proposal, despite a pledge to be "transparent".

The NSS has also responded to a second consultation opposing any merger that results in a faith school.

NSS: Argument for faith school 'dismantled'

NSS campaigns officer Alejandro Sanchez said: "This letter clearly sets out the case against the faith school takeover. It dismantles any argument that the resulting school should have a religious character.

"In an increasingly irreligious and religiously diverse society, our education system should be open and welcoming to all.

"Southwark Council would do well to heed this letter and ensure any decision prioritises the needs of the local community, not the agenda of the Church."

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Tags: Faith schools