Plans by the Education Secretary to allow religious schools to bar a greater numbers of pupils from other backgrounds will sow seeds for social division, prejudice and hate crime, campaigners warn in The Independent.
Damian Hinds, who was educated at the Catholic grammar school, St Ambrose College, said in an interview with the Sunday Times he would lift the rule forcing religious schools to allocate 50 per cent of places to pupils who do not share the belief system they espouse.
This would allow schools to select pupils entirely on the basis of religion, arguably advocating closed religious communities within education.
Humanists UK, which has led a campaign against plans to drop the cap, said removing the rule could lead to religious and ethnic discrimination and risk separating children along socioeconomic lines.
“The 50 per cent cap on faith-school admissions has worked successfully to reduce social, ethnic and religious segregation within state schools,” Richy Thomson, director of public affairs and policy at Humanists UK, told The Independent.
Currently, new religious free schools can only prioritise the admission of pupils on the basis of religion for up to half of their places, leaving the remaining 50 per cent open to local children of all beliefs and backgrounds.
Theresa May pledged to drop the rule for new state-funded free schools in her general election manifesto last year. However, the move was blocked by Justine Greening, Mr Hinds’s predecessor as Education Secretary, who defended the cap as a means of ensuring children from non-religious backgrounds are given fair access to good schools.
Speaking on the issue of faith schools on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Ms Greening said: “I think it’s important that schools are places ideally where communities get brought together. I think in our experience looking at things like the Trojan Horse affair, schools that, as it were, monoculture, are less plugged into their local communities and that’s where you tend to get problems.
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