19 new religious schools proposed in latest free school applications

5 February, 2020

The Government has published a list of applicants for the latest wave of free school funding and 19 of them are faith schools. Humanists UK, which campaigns for an inclusive, secular education system with schools that are suitable for all pupils irrespective of background, is concerned that any decision to approve more faith schools will lead to increased religious segregation and discrimination.

Of the 89 schools that have been proposed, 12 are designated religious character and a further 7 with a ‘faith ethos’. If approved, 14 of these schools will be Christian, 3 Muslim, and 2 Sikh.

The schools with a designated religious character will be entitled to select 50% of their pupils on religious grounds and provide religious education (RE) and collective worship in line with the tenets of their faith. The faith ethos schools will not be permitted to select pupils by faith and RE will be taught according to the locally agreed syllabus, but religion is still permitted to shape the character of the school and senior teachers can be appointed on faith grounds.

Among the schools without a religious character listed is Hampton Gardens Primary School in Peterborough, which is proposed for the same site as the recently approved Hampton Waters Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided School which will be legally permitted to select 100% of pupils by faith. However, despite local opposition, Peterborough Council decided to opt for the selective Catholic school rather than wait for the Hampton Gardens bid to go through the Department for Education’s approval process. Three local councillors are formally opposing the decision through the ‘call-in’ process with a meeting due to be held next week.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham said: ‘Any increase in the number of faith schools in England will only lead to more segregation and discrimination when the need for pupils from different backgrounds to come together is greater than ever.

‘The fact that, in the case of Hampton Gardens Primary, the DfE and local Council have approved a bid for a religiously selective Catholic school rather than waiting to properly consider the more desirable option of opening a school open to all pupils regardless of background, is particularly concerning.

‘In a country where more than half the population are non-religious and around 80% of people of parental age are non-Christian, the proliferation of faith schools makes very little sense. We strongly urge the DfE to prioritise open, inclusive school places over those in divisive faith schools.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3000.

Read our article on the first new Government-funded Catholic school to open in over ten years being approved in Peterborough.

Read our most recent article on how the Hampton Waters bid apparently contradicts canon law.

Read our news item on 2019’s free school applications.

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.