Humanists UK urges local councils not to open 100% religiously selective schools as first such schools are proposed

11 January, 2019

Take Action: You too can write to your local councillors to oppose new fully selective religious schools. You can look at the points we’ve made in our letter to help you craft your own and even use our Guide for Local Activists to start your own campaign.

Humanists UK has written to councils across England urging them to block bids to open fully selective voluntary aided (VA) religious schools by instead opening a tendering process for schools with more inclusive admissions policies.

The letter, which was sent to council leaders in areas projected to be in high need of more school places, comes as the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia became the first to publicly express an interest in applying to open three such schools in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, under the new Government scheme.

In our letter, Humanists UK asks councils to adhere to the law (outlined in Section 6A of the Education and Inspections Act 2006) which states that, when a local authority believes a new school is needed, they must, in the first instance, seek proposals for academies. New academies, if they are religious at all, are only able to select up to half their places on the basis of faith. Any new schools opening under the voluntary aided scheme must also demonstrate that they are meeting a basic need for places, which means the councils should be invoking Section 6A rather than accepting voluntary aided school proposals.

Any schools opening under the 50% cap on religious selection are more likely to serve children from a wide variety of religious backgrounds and, through so doing, enables pupils to mix with those who hold different beliefs. They are also likely to be more socially and ethnically diverse. While Humanists UK campaigns for an end to the state funding of faith schools, 50% religiously selective schools are a better choice than 100% fully religious VA schools. Any VA schools that open under the scheme will also be able to convert to academies once open whilst still retaining 100% religious selection.

Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said: ‘Religious selection is discriminatory and leads to increased segregation and social division. It is very alarming that the UK Government has decided to push ahead with a policy that allows more fully selective religious schools to open irrespective of these facts.

‘However the good news is that local authorities have the power to stop schools with discriminatory admissions from opening within their jurisdiction by instead following their statutory duty to seek proposals for schools themselves and encouraging applications for inclusive schools designed to serve the whole community. For this reason, we are calling on them to protect the interests of local families and their children by ensuring that the new schools in their area are open and welcoming to all pupils irrespective of faith or belief.’


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For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read our news items on the recent announcement of 100% religiously selective schools here:

For tips on how to take further action, read our briefing document here.

For more information about our faith schools campaign work, visit:

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 community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.