Justine Greening questions scraping faith school discrimination cap

Former education secretary questions government’s proposal to abolish faith school cap on the number of pupil’s admitted based on religious grounds

Former education secretary, Justine Greening, has questioned the government’s proposal to abolish the rule that new faith schools should not be able to select more than half of their pupils on religious grounds – casting fresh doubt on the wisdom of removing the 50% cap.

Speaking to TES, Ms Greening said abolishing the cap would not help schools ‘bring children together’ or prepare them for life in ‘modern Britain’. Despite believing the 50% discrimination cap has had ‘some shortcomings’, she concluded that she is ‘… not sure that that particularly means you necessarily need to remove it.’

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said, “Accord strongly supports Justine Greening’s intervention. The messages from academia and history clearly demonstrate that trust and friendships between people from different backgrounds flourish when they grow up and learn together in the same schools. Abolishing the discrimination cap would send a potentially dangerous signal that it was okay for schools to create religious and ethnic ghettos.

‘The government should heed the comments from across civil society that question the wisdom of scrapping the cap. The cap should be maintained and extended to existing faith schools, not abolished. Future generations will not thank us if we leave a legacy of fragmentation or division.”

Research conducted by the DfE has drawn attention to the positive effect on the growth of trust and social cohesion from ethnic and religious mixing in schools. Last August it published a study it commissioned on this topic, which found religious and ethnic mixing in schools had a ‘significant’ impact in reducing anxiety and increasing liking between people from different backgrounds.

A range of educational, civil society and other leaders have come out against scrapping the cap. This included, in January, the Children Rights Alliance for England. In 2016 Accord helped organise an open letter from 76 figures across British civic life in support of the cap. A September 2017 report into integration by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Social Integration warned:

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‘Whilst ensuring that young people meet and mix with others from different cultures at school arguably represents our best hope of building a Britain in which we are truly capable of looking beyond our differences, our country’s school system too often reinforces and replicates division between communities.’

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