Education group slams Damian Hinds for faith schools u-turn comment

Accord Coalition questions secretary of state for education, Damian Hinds, following comments that show he intends to drop religious discrimination in admissions cap at new state-funded faith schools

The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has accused the secretary of state for education, Damian Hinds, for failing in his duty to wider society following comments reported in the Sunday Times that he intends to drop the 50% religious discrimination in admissions cap at new state-funded faith schools.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Rev Stephen Terry, said: “Introduced in 2010, the 50% cap has been the most serious attempt by government in recent years to help boost mixing and integration in society. Though a small measure, it sends an important signal that schools should not seek to entrench religious division, but break down barriers and segregation.

“Scrapping the cap would go against both public opinion and what academic evidence and history warn about creating religious silos in the school system. It would be a deeply irresponsible move that would place misguided and myopic special pleading by just a few religious authorities against the long-term interests of wider society. This is not what voters expect or should expect from our political leaders.

“Future generations will judge us very poorly should we leave a legacy of fragmentation or discrimination. We urge the Minister to reconsider his current approach and avoid making a disastrous policy decision that would be completely contrary to the needs of a Britain that is becoming increasingly religiously and ethnically diverse.”

The religious discrimination in admissions cap

A 50% religious discrimination in admissions cap was introduced for new faith academy schools by the last Labour government in 2007. The coalition government borrowed the 50% policy when Michael Gove introduced its free schools programme in 2010.

In 2015 the Conservative government told Accord it would be continuing with the faith free school discrimination cap: ‘… as an important way of supporting these schools to be inclusive and to meet the needs of a broad mix of families’. The 2017 Conservative Party General Election manifesto committed to scrapping the 50% policy, a commitment it is widely believed the former education secretary Justine Greening was seeking the current government should dissociate itself from.

You might also like...  Greening signals less 'punitive' approach towards struggling schools

An opinion poll by Populus in May 2017 found that four out of every five voters preferred that new faith schools should continue to operate under the 50% religious discrimination cap than not.

Britain is in the unusual position of being one of a very small number of developed countries that permits state-funded faith schools to religiously select pupils at all.

The small number of religious authorities who oppose the discrimination cap include the Catholic Church of England and Wales. This is despite Catholic Schools in most other countries, along with most private Catholic schools in England, not selecting any pupils by faith. The Catholic International Education Office (OIEC) defines a Catholic school as:

“A non-discriminatory school, open to all … in conclusion, the Catholic school is anything but a communitarian school. It is open to all … It must constantly promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue if it is to continue its mission. This is, in any case, a motto of the OIEC, all over the world.”

The Education Secretary’s impartiality was brought into question last month when it was revealed that he received funding for his parliamentary office from the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales in 2014/15.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect with us on LinkedIn!