Did DfE check if new faith schools 'discriminate'?

Humanists challenge government on plan to allow new voluntary-aided schools with 100 per cent faith-based admissions

Humanists UK has questioned funding new VA schools

Campaigners are calling on the government to reveal whether it assessed if its plans for new voluntary-aided schools will discriminate against certain pupils.

The Department for Education announced last month that it would keep the 50 per cent faith cap on new free schools – meaning schools can only choose half of their intake on religious grounds.

However, in the same announcement, the DfE also said it would be funding up to 90 per cent of the capital costs of new VA schools – which can select all pupils on the basis of their faith.

Humanists UK has submitted a freedom of information request asking the DfE for the results of any equality impact assessment that was carried out before making its decision.

The Department for Education has confirmed that it did assess the equalities impact of setting up a new scheme for supporting VA schools.

Faith-based admissions 'discriminatory'

The charity's chief executive, Andrew Copson, said: “Faith-based admissions policies are, by definition, discriminatory, so we look forward to seeing what or whether an equality impact assessment was carried out and how it could possibly have led to this outcome.’ 

His organisation says it was mystifying that the government had decided to keep a faith cap on new free schools, but promote new VA schools.

In a letter to the DfE, it adds: “Such schools will deny equal access to children on the basis of religion and, by proxy, their ethnic and socioeconomic background, too, just as much as fully selective free schools would.”

The new VA schools will be funded from the department’s £270 million free schools budget.  The number of new VA schools depends on the demand.

Before the announcement, education secretary Damian Hinds had indicated that he wanted to scrap the faith cap on new free schools.

It was also a Conservative Party manifesto pledge to remove “the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools".

A DfE spokeswoman said: “As with all policies, the decision to establish a scheme to support the creation of new Voluntary Aided schools has been subject to consideration of the equalities impacts it may have."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you