David Laws, Minister for Schools, responds to our letter
You may remember that back in December 2012 The Guardian published a joint letter from Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition, and a number of other signatories, including RISC.
The letter called on the Government to end faith-based discrimination in school admissions systems.
Well, David Laws MP, the Minister for Schools has recently replied, and you can read his response here.
Unfortunately the reply is misleading in two ways:
- Firstly, it implies that schools that select 50% of their pupils on the basis of faith are “inclusive”. Ok, so 50% selection is better than 100%; but truly inclusive schools, including many faith schools, don’t do faith-based selection at all. That's 0% by the way!
- Secondly, the response ignores the fact that the Department for Education have knowingly left a loophole open so that religious organisations can get round the 50% cap on faith-based admissions anyway!. Wondering how we know that? Here’s a recap:
- The 2011 Education Act made the Free School/Academy structure the default for new schools, implying that any new faith school should have the 50% cap on faith-based selection that David Laws refers to in his letter.
- This was the basis of our court case against Richmond Council last year. The Council had decided to set up a Voluntary Aided school at Clifden Road, rather than an Academy, enabling the church to get round the 50% cap. We disputed the legality of that, but lost the case.
- One of the reasons we lost was because David Laws’ Department for Education claimed in their submissions that it was also an objective of the Education Act “to make it easier to establish voluntary aided schools” specifically because “in some cases…religious organisations will not wish to establish an Academy … mainly because only 50% of places can be prioritised on the basis of faith if that Academy is oversubscribed.”
So David Laws’ reply is very disingenuous. We waiting to hear whether Jonathan Romain will reply!