DfE approves six new faith schools in ‘missed opportunity’ to back inclusive education

14 June, 2019

  • A quarter of new schools that will open are faith schools, under latest DfE schools round announced today
  • Both free schools and voluntary-aided schools included in this round
  • But vast majority of 100% religiously selective voluntary-aided schools rejected in ‘slightly promising’ result for Humanists UK’s campaign.

More faith schools, which discriminate on religious grounds and divide pupils based on their religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, have been given the green light to open in England as part of the Department for Education’s latest schools round announced today.

Overall, six new state-funded faith schools have been approved in this round which is almost a quarter of those that will open. Three of these, out of 14 which placed bids, are voluntary-aided schools which can legally select 100% of pupils on religious grounds. Our comments responding to the announcement were featured in The Independent today.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for an inclusive education system with no religious discrimination, has described the move by the Government as a ‘missed opportunity’ to end religious discrimination and open more inclusive schools, and says it will only lead to more pupils being divided on religious, ethnic, and socio-economic lines.

The DfE announced that the Hampton Waters Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided School in Peterborough had been successful along with two undisclosed bids that the DfE is assisting to locate sites for and which are expected to open in due course.

The successful faith schools under the free schools wave were: Blue Coat II, a Christian secondary school in Oldham; New House Farm C of E Primary in Derbyshire; and Trinity Academy Barnsley, a Christian secondary school.

In April, Humanists UK and the Accord Coalition led a campaign, with the backing of 180 high-profile campaigners, urging the Government to reject 100% religiously selective schools. The open letter, which appeared in The Sunday Times and was sent to the Department for Education, warned that opening more faith schools would be a ‘disaster for social cohesion.’ The letter was signed by names including Humanists UK president Alice Roberts, Stephen Fry, Lord Kenneth Baker, Becky Francis, Revd Richard Harries, and Alf Dubs.

Responding to the announcement, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘Overall, six new faith schools have been approved in this round which is a quarter of those that will open. This is a disappointing result for the communities affected meaning many parents will be forced to send their child to a faith school when they’d prefer an inclusive school with no faith ethos that welcomes all pupils into the classroom no matter their background.

‘The opening of any new state-funded faith school is bad news for social cohesion and leads to increased discrimination on religious grounds, but it is slightly promising that the Government has rejected the vast majority of bids for 100% religiously selective faith schools and only three of these are expected to open.

‘We have repeatedly called on the Government in England to prioritise inclusive schools that do not select by religion. At a time when there is so much division around the country, giving more faith schools the green light to discriminate on religious grounds will lead to greater levels of segregation between pupils from different religious, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds.’

Humanists UK has been running a campaign urging people to write to their MP to oppose 100% religiously selective voluntary-aided schools.

Yesterday it was revealed the numbers of families receiving a place at their first choice of school has fallen this year.


For more information, contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read more about our open letter campaign against voluntary-aided faith schools.

Find out more about our faith schools campaign work.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.