The details of 14 proposed new voluntary-aided schools that would be able to select all their pupils on the basis of their faith have been published by the Department for Education.
The proposals include five Catholic, three Church of England and one other Christian school, two Muslim, two Hindu and one Jewish school.
The bids for funding have been submitted after the government controversially made free-school funding available for new voluntary-aided schools that can select all pupils on religious grounds.
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Last year the department announced that it was using some of its £270m free-school budget for new VA schools – despite keeping a faith cap in place which means that new free schools and academies can only select 50 per cent of their pupils on the grounds of faith.
Plans to open faith schools
The new VA proposals include:
- Five proposed Catholic schools – two in Peterborough, along with bids in Cambridgeshire, Liverpool and Bromley.
- Three Church of England schools – in South Tyneside, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Hammersmith and Fulham.
- Two Muslim schools – in Leeds and Redbridge.
- Two Hindu schools – in Hertfordshire and Redbridge.
- One Jewish school – in Hertfordshire.
- One non-denominational Christian school – in Cornwall.
Secular and humanist campaigners have voiced concerns about the new wave of planned religious schools.
Humanists UK’s education campaigns manager, Ruth Wareham, said: "One hundred per cent religiously selective schools segregate pupils by religion, ethnicity and parental income, and that is a disaster for community cohesion.
"We urge the UK government and the local authorities responsible for these bids to reject them, and instead only open integrated and diverse schools that cater equally to all families, regardless of religion or belief."
Alastair Lichten, the head of education at the National Secular Society, said: “The government and local authorities should resist the temptation to pander to assertive religious groups by opening new faith schools which can discriminate in 100 per cent of their admissions.
“Faith schools have a negative impact on social cohesion, foster segregation of children on social, ethnic and religious lines, undermine children’s freedom of and from religion, harm choice and exacerbate inequality. In areas where new schools are needed, these should be inclusive, rather than being organised around an exclusive religious ethos.
“We will engage with local supporters, councils and activists to ensure all these proposals face a robust challenge.”
Earlier this year Lord Agnew answered a parliamentary question revealing that 14 bids for new VA schools had been submitted following 22 expressions of interest in the scheme.
He said: “The capital scheme for voluntary-aided schools is designed to be small, and registering interest in the scheme prior to submitting a bid for funding was not compulsory.
“As well as exploratory discussions with stakeholders, we received expressions of interest for 22 new voluntary-aided schools.
“The expressions of interest led to 14 bids for funding submitted to the department.”
Guidance published last year revealed that the Department for Education wanted bidders for new VA schools to own their own site or have access to free land.