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Faith school opponents voice 'conspiracy' fears

THE Church of England and the Government have been accused of conspiring to stifle opposition to new faith schools.

Opponents of faith schools say proposed changes to the law will make it harder for them to object to plans to build new religious schools or extend existing ones.

The rules under consultation would halve to one month the time allowed for objections to school reorganisation, including the creation of new faith schools.

In addition, opponents complain that Church leaders have made it more difficult for them to find information by refusing to tell them where new faith schools are planned.

Canon John Hall, director of education at the Church of England, has advised all dioceses not to comply with a request by the British Humanist Association to inform it when new church schools are planned.

Marilyn Mason, the association's education officer, said: "Consultation where you consult only your own supporters is worthless. Everything, including the Department for Education and Skills and the Church of England, seems to be conspiring against genuine local consultations on new faith-based schools.

"The likely outcome is that people will wake up one morning to find that there is going to be a new religious school in their area and that will be the first they had heard of it."

Canon Hall said: "There is no reason for us to ask our dioceses to perform an extra administrative task for the opponents of faith schools."

The consultation on changes to the rules on school reorganisation ends in April. The new rules will come into force in July.

A DfES spokesman said that changes were intended to speed up the decision-making process.

"All interested parties should be in a position to make their comments within this time scale, because before proposals may be published, all interested parties must be consulted, so they will already be aware of what is intended," he added.

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