BHA backs launch of Fair Admissions Campaign

6 June, 2013

Take Action! You can find out how to get involved in the Campaign at


All state-funded schools should be open to all children, regardless of their parents’ religion. That’s the message of the Fair Admissions Campaign, a new, widely supported campaign which has launched today, with the British Humanist Association (BHA) as a founding member. It seeks to bring equity to a system that should be a beacon of fairness, yet is mired in discrimination. The campaign focuses solely on the issue of religious selection in admissions in state schools in England and Wales, and its consequences in terms of religious, racial and ethnic, and social and economic segregation.

Welcoming the launch, Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the BHA, commented ‘Again and again the public have expressed their opposition to discriminatory school admissions. One survey carried out last year showed that public opposition was as great as four to one. It’s time that the reality caught up with popular opinion and religious selection is consigned to history.’

Professor Ted Cantle CBE is the founder of the Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) and author of ‘The Cantle Report’, commissioned and published by the Home Office after 2001’s summer of race riots. Supporting the launch of the campaign, Professor Cantle commented, ‘One of the key issues which the world now faces is “how we live together in an era of globalised and diverse communities?” It must be clear – especially from recent events – that so many of the tensions and conflicts in the UK and elsewhere are based upon faith and ethnic divisions. Our communities remain riven by the differences which we should be learning to set aside. Religiously selective schools cannot of course be held solely responsible for these problems, but they do underpin a system in which children learn that they are “different” and in which everyday contact is denied. They do not build friendships with “others” and the separation of children within schools reinforces wider divisions, as parents do not meet at the school gate and families are not drawn together through shared sporting and cultural events.’

The BHA’s position on ‘faith’ schools and admissions

The BHA does not believe that the state should fund religious schools at all. We believe that religious discrimination in admissions and employment is wrong and that schools should not bring children up in a particular religion when they are too young to make up their own minds on such matters. Nor is it fair when a child is sent to a religious school against their parents’ wishes. We think all this is especially objectionable given the involvement of state funds. If faith-based admissions policies, employment policies and curricula were to cease, then we would not see the point in faith groups continuing to run schools at all, as it would only lead to risks of institutional proselytising. We will continue to work to tackle all these areas, with our dedicated campaigner against ‘faith’ schools leading the efforts.

However, we are happy to support this narrower campaign on just this one key issue, first of all because it furthers our aims of ending religious discrimination and segregation in state schools; and secondly because we know how important this particular topic is. We know this from the large numbers of you who contact us feeling discriminated against when you are unable to get your children into your local school, or the best school in your area, as a result of faith-based admissions policies. 73% of the public agree that this practice is wrong. It is time we put a stop to it.


For further comment please contact BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal on 07738 435 059, or email

Visit the Fair Admissions Campaign website at

More information about the issue of socio-economic selection can be found on its ‘Why is this an issue?’ ( and ‘FAQs’ ( pages.

The Campaign is already being supported by the Accord Coalition, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the British Humanist Association, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Professor Ted Cantle CBE and the iCoCo Foundation, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association (affiliated to the Labour Party), and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

The Campaign aims to provide support and advice to parents and carers who have been discriminated against because of the existing school system – unable to get their children into their local school or the best school in their area without resorting to gaming the system. As well as providing this advice, the Campaign offers a range of ways that individuals will be able to get involved, for example by forming local campaign groups and challenging admissions policies at the schools adjudicator.

The Campaign is led by a steering group whose members currently include the Accord Coalition, the BHA, Ted Cantle and RISC.

Read Dan Roseburg and Raj Desai’s paper:

View the top-level data on socio-economic selection by type of school:

The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.