Government urged to stop state funded schools being used as tools to change public policy

Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education questions reacts to Catholic Churches reported religious descrimination

The Accord Coalition has responded with alarm to reports Catholic Church officials are instructing state funded schools they control to actively support a Church campaign to allow faith free schools to religiously discriminate when awarding more of their pupil places.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘It is astonishing that Catholic educational authorities, who have regularly claimed they are inclusive of non-Catholics, are getting their schools to campaign for the right to have more 100% Catholic schools which can segregate their pupils from those of other religions and beliefs. These are state funded schools and while they may have a Catholic ethos, they should not be barring local children, nor misusing public funds to campaign to change how they are regulated.’

According to findings released today by Humanists UK, the Catholic Diocese of Westminster’s Education Service has asked schools to encourage local people to support the Church’s public campaign to get the Government to scrap the current cap which prevents faith free schools from not religiously discriminating when awarding more than half of places. Schools in other dioceses are found to have shared similar messages, suggesting the promotion could be nationwide.

Section 406 of the 1996 Education Act  forbids the promotion of partisan political views  in schools. Section 407 of the Act requires schools to present political issues in a balanced way. The Catholic Education Service of England and Wales was rebuked by both the Welsh and UK governments in 2012 after it wrote to its state funded schools urging them to encourage staff and pupils to oppose same sex marriage.

The 50% discrimination cap was introduced in 2010 when the free schools programme was launched. In the summer of 2015 the Conservative Government stated it would continue with the 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 Manifesto stated the cap would be scrapped but there has since been public speculation that it would be continued.

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An Accord commissioned Populus opinion poll in May this year found that 80% of voters preferred the 50% discrimination cap was continued rather than scrapped. Keeping the cap was supported by 67% to 33% among those self identifying as Catholic.

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