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Catholic education chief expresses doubt over religious selection proposals

The Catholic Church pushed for a license to discriminate on religious groups in 100% of school places

The Catholic Church pushed for a license to discriminate on religious groups in 100% of school places, but is now distancing itself from the change in policy

The Director of the Catholic Education Service (CES) Paul Barber has conceded that ‘the move back to schools of 100 per cent one faith is dreadful’, following the Government’s proposals to drop the 50% cap on religious selection in school admissions.

The CES has long been the main voice calling for the 50% cap to be removed. In the time that the cap has been in place – it was first introduced under Labour in 2007, then extended in 2010 as part of the coalition agreement – the CES has chosen not to open any new schools, misleadingly claiming that opening schools under the cap would ‘contravene canon law’. This is despite the fact that the majority of Catholic private schools in England do not select all of their places on the basis of religion, and in most other countries state schools are not even allowed to religiously select at all.   

Contrary to claims made by the Government, the 50% cap has been hugely successful in improving integration in religious free schools. Analysis conducted by the British Humanist Association (BHA) earlier this month using official figures found that ‘faith’ schools opened under the cap were significantly more diverse than ‘faith’ schools that select 100% of their places on the basis of religion.   

Responding to the comments, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘It is frankly astounding that the Catholic Education Service has the nerve to claim that you can be on the side of integration and yet support schools in dividing up children from an incredibly early age on the basis of their parents’ religious or non-religious beliefs. This is clearly nonsense.

‘Religious selection in school admissions is the very definition of segregation, and if Paul Barber is genuinely uncomfortable with that, as he now claims to be, he will reverse the position of his organisation immediately and call on the Government to drop its plans to remove the 50% cap at once.

‘The cap has been hugely effective at boosting integration in religious free schools and improving the extent to which local schools are open to local parents. The move back to closed-off, single-faith schools really is dreadful and we hope the Government will move to amend its proposals accordingly.’


For further comment or information please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read the TES’ article ‘Catholic education chief says total religious segregation in schools is “dreadful”’:

See the BHA’s previous news item ‘New evidence shows Government proposals to allow 100% religious selection in schools will lead to increased segregation’:

Read the BHA’s news item ‘Exposed: Catholic hypocrisy in calls for end to restrictions on religious selection in schools’:

See the BHA’s news item ‘Government publishes plans to allow full religious discrimination in school admissions’:

Read the Government’s green paper, where it sets out the proposals:

Read more about the BHA’s work on ‘faith’ schools:

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.

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