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High Court to hear case against faith school takeover in Somerset

The High Court has granted permission for a family to challenge Somerset County Council’s decision to merge two local schools, one without a religious character, resulting in the creation of one school under the auspices of the Church of England. Under the Council’s proposals, local parents would be left with little choice but to have their children attend a faith school which they would not have chosen. Humanists UK, which campaigns against the state funding of faith schools, believes that when schools merge the presumption should always be in favour of maintaining an inclusive ethos rather than a religious one that not all families will share.

As part of the council’s decision to change its three-tier education system (first, middle and upper schools), to a two-tier model, it has put forward proposals to merge Swanmead Community School, a non-faith school, with Greenfylde First School to create a split-site Church of England primary school. The case will argue the decision to merge these schools is discriminatory against those with no religious beliefs, in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 and there was not adequate consultation on the proposals.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘We are very pleased that the High Court has granted permission for judicial review in this case. It is unjust that parents who have chosen to send their children to an inclusive school with no religious character could now find their children subject to faith-based education. That is a violation of their freedom of religion or belief, and a fundamentally inappropriate scenario in a state-funded education system.’

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For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on education and schools.

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