The Government is currently rushing through Parliament important legislation regarding education. The Academies Bill allows existing state-maintained schools to become Academies – state-funded but independent schools. The Bill will also be used to establish ‘free schools’, new Academies established by a range of groups including religious organisations. For the first time, primary schools will also be able to apply to become Academies in their own right.
This Academies Bill is a massive de-regulation of public education which could significantly increase the power and influence of religious groups in our schools. It risks permanently entrenching religious segregation in our education system through irreversible changes which will permit wide discrimination in admissions and employment. By “freeing” religious Academies from the national curriculum the Bill also risks exposing children to extreme religious views, including creationism.
There are several issues with the Bill of particular concern to humanists:
1.If a state-maintained ‘faith school’ becomes a religious Academy, it will no longer be required to follow the national curriculum. This could lead to some schools teaching their own version of religious education, personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and to an increase in schools teaching creationism.
2.Unlike the current situation, schools will not have to undertake extensive consultation with their local authority, parents or local people before becoming an academy. A school could therefore become a religious academy without local people being fully able to give their views.
3.The Bill forces a ‘faith school’ automatically to become an independent school with that religious character if they become an Academy. This removes the possibility for state-funded faith schools to choose to become inclusive Academies.
4.As it stands it includes no provision to prevent inclusive community schools adopting a religious character when converting to Academy status. This means more ‘faith schools’.
5.The Government has made clear that it does not intend to prevent religious academies from discriminating in their admissions, giving preference to the children of parents with particular beliefs. As the number of religious academies increases, there will be fewer and fewer places for children whose parents are of the ‘wrong’ or no religion.
6.Many maintained ‘faith schools’ are not currently permitted to discriminate on religious grounds against staff. The Bill contains no safeguards to ensure that such schools, when converting to Academies, cannot begin discriminating in their recruitment and employment policies.
7.A number of fee-paying independent religious schools have already registered their interest in becoming Academies, which would give them complete powers over the curriculum while unburdening them from the need to raise their own funds.
Use the links below to email your MP and urge them to address these issues as the Bill progresses through Parliament.
This is such a very important issue that I beg you to please, please contact your MP and voice your objections. This arbitrary measure to covertly privatise the state school system is not in the interests of the public’s children. This measure is a short-term saving and will ultimately leave us without a school system at all.