Tomorrow is the last day of the Isle of Wight Council’s consultation on reducing the number of primary places in the Freshwater and Totland area. This area covers three schools – All Saints Church of England Primary School, St Saviour’s Catholic Primary School and Weston Community Primary School, an inclusive school. Weston is the strongest of the three, performing best academically and according to other Ofsted measures. However, the consultation proposes its closure over that of two ‘faith’ schools.
This is because ‘[t]he Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth wishes to continue voluntary aided Catholic provision where this currently exists on the Island’, and while ‘[t]he governors of All Saints have previously indicated that they would accept the removal of the religious character of their school’, this would only be possible by closing All Saints and re-opening it, something likely to lead to an Academy opening in its place – which the Council is keen to avoid. Finally, the national guidance on school closures states that ‘[t]he Decision Maker (either the council or the schools’ adjudicator) should not normally approve the closure of a school with a religious character where the proposal would result in a reduction in the proportion of denominational places in the area.’
British Humanist Association (BHA) Faith Schools Campaigns Officer Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is disgraceful that the closure of St Saviour’s is dismissed out of hand because of the wishes of the Catholic Diocese, whose views should not influence this decision. It is also awful that the views of the governors of All Saints are ignored, and the best interests of the local population put to one side, because the Council does not want the resulting school to break out of its control and become an Academy. And finally, it is shocking that the national guidance on school closures puts the desires of narrow religious groups over the best interests of the community as a whole. This guidance needs revising.’
Isle of Wight Council have also produced a table purportedly showing the difference between the three schools. However, this table disguises the fact that the Council’s admissions policy allows All Saints to religiously discriminate in admissions in favour of Anglican children; that All Saints can use a religious test in appointing, remunerating and promoting up to a fifth of teachers, including the headmaster and that St Saviours can do likewise but for all teachers and even some non-teaching staff; and that one quarter of the governors of All Saints are appointed by the Church of England, and more than half at St Saviours are appointed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr Thompson continued, ‘Weston is the only inclusive community primary in the whole of the west of the Isle of Wight. Were the school to close, parents will either have to send their children to a C of E or Catholic school, or send them to the next nearest community school 12 miles away. We have been working with concerned parents at Weston and with our local members and supporters for over a month, rallying support for keeping the community school open.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.
Read the Isle of Wight consultation, Consultation on the Reduction of Primary School Provision in the Freshwater and Totland Area, the Council’s “faith table” and their admissions policy.
Read the Department for Education guidance, Extract of Decision Makers’ Guidance for: Closing a Maintained Mainstream School.
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.