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CofE hits back at 'contradictory' call to end faith-based admissions

Church leaders question why report from former education secretary suggests phasing out religious admissions policies

New report calls on the CoE to end faith-based selection of pupils

Church leaders question why report from former education secretary suggests phasing out religious admissions policies

The Church of England has said a report calling on it to scrap all faith-based admission policies at its schools contradicts itself.

The report by former education secretary Charles Clarke and academic Prof Linda Woodhead called on the Church to phase out  “all selection in their schools on the basis of faith, perhaps over a number of years.”

The authors said that the country needs to have fewer schools that select pupils on the basis of religion.

However, the Church of England has said that the report contradicts itself by also promoting the right of parents to choose a school of their faith for their children.

The Rev Nigel Genders, the CofE’s chief education officer, said: “We have consistently argued that the issue of school admissions is complex in a system where parental choice is valued.

'What about parental choice?'

“There is an apparent contradiction in the Clarke/Woodhead report which promotes the right of parents to choose an education that is consistent with their faith, but suggests that schools move away from of any faith criteria in admissions processes to enable this.

"This seems a difficult square to circle and so the reason for calling for churches to remove all faith criteria is not clear.”

There has been recent controversy over faith-based admissions following education secretary Damian Hinds’ decision to retain a 50 per cent faith cap on new free schools, which means they can only select half of their pupils on the basis of religion.

Mr Hinds, who had been expected to scrap the cap, announced in May this year that it was being retained but that the DfE would be providing funding for new voluntary-aided schools, which can select all of their pupils on the grounds of faith.

The Clarke Woodhead report calls on the Church of England to remove all faith-based criteria from its schools, and suggests many Anglicans would support this.

The Rev Genders said: “Church of England Schools provide education for the whole community. This includes those of other faiths and those of no faith, as well as Christian families. Around one million pupils attend our schools every day, each receiving a high-quality education, and our approach to education remains extremely popular.

“The report from the Westminster Faith Debates continues an important conversation about religion and belief in schools, and the type of education we want for our children.”

The Clarke-Woodhead report published yesterday provides an update to one they produced for Westminster Faith Debates in 2015. 

Three years ago, they recommended that the requirement for schools to hold an act of collective worship should be abolished.

However, they have now pulled back from this. Instead, their new report recommends that the guidance for schools be updated to say that: “All pupils in attendance at maintained schools and academies shall take part in a regular assembly or act of collective worship in keeping with the values and ethos of the school and reflecting the diversity and character of the school community.”

The Rev Genders said the Church of England was pleased to see “a significant ground-shift” away from calls for the requirement to be abolished, which he said would be “to the detriment of children’s wellbeing”.

Yesterday the chief executive of Humanists UK, Andrew Copson, expressed disappointment that the revised Clarke-Woodhead report had dropped the call for the requirement for collective worship to be abolished.

 

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