I have received a number of emails recently about faith school admissions, particularly in relation to Catholic schools.
Currently, there is a 50% cap on the number of children admitted on the grounds of faith for oversubscribed new academies or free schools with a religious character. In September 2016, the Prime Minister announced plans to reform the education system which included proposals to remove this 50% rule.
A response to the Government’s consultation on this issue was due in spring 2017 but this remains outstanding. I appreciate that the delay in setting out further details has been a cause for concern and I hope that the current Government will soon clarify its position on inclusivity rules and faith school admissions.
I recognise that faith schools are an important part of the educational landscape and I believe it is important that applications for new faith schools are considered. I also recognise the contribution that the Catholic Church has made to the school system, and the fact that Catholic education accounts for 10% of national maintained schools in England. The freedom to practice faith and to educate children in a faith – or not – of our choosing is one of the cornerstones of the free and diverse democratic society in which we live.
However, it cannot be the case that schools are allowed to act as islands – either around ethnicity or religion – not co-operating or forging partnership with other schools. I believe that all schools, including faith schools, should serve their local communities and follow the admissions code, so that every child has fair access to schools. I also believe it is very important that the school curriculum should provide pupils with a minimum entitlement to a broad and balanced education.
I assure I will follow this issue closely, keeping my website updated on any further developments.