Humanists UK criticises Government’s faith school discrimination proposals at UN Human Rights Council

22 September, 2017

Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman at the UN Human Rights Council

Humanists UK has criticised the UK Government’s plans to end limits on religious discrimination in state school admissions during a speech at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. The statement was made during a debate on the UNHRC’s universal periodic review of the UK, which took place in May this year but failed to criticise the Government’s record on allowing religious discrimination in the education system.

In September 2016 the UK Government proposed to end the requirement that all new and existing religious ‘free schools’ in England keep at least half of their places open to all local children, irrespective of religion or belief. This so-called 50% cap on religious selection was first introduced by Labour in 2007, extended by the Coalition in 2010, and kept in place following the election in 2015. But despite the evidence demonstrating that the cap has been incredibly successful in promoting integration and polling revealing that the public overwhelmingly support the cap, the Government proposes to scrap it.

Speaking to the assembled nations of the UNHRC, Humanists UK Education Campaigner Jay Harman said that if the Government go ahead with the proposals, it would represent a ‘green light to a new generation of fully segregated religious schools, undermining equal access to education and extending religious discrimination in the education system.’ He concluded:

‘If children are to be free both to form their own beliefs and to understand those with beliefs different to their own, they must not be defined and divided at the start of their lives. We therefore call on the UK Government not simply to keep current limits on religious selection at ‘free schools’, but to extend them to all state-funded religious schools, with a view to ultimately ending such discrimination altogether.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on

Read Humanists UK’s full statement at the UNHRC:

See the Humanists UK news item ‘80% of public oppose Government plans to remove the cap on faith-based school admissions’:

See the Humanists UK news item ‘Evidence shows Government proposal to allow 100% religious selection in schools will lead to increased segregation’:

About Humanists UK

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.

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