Outcry over proposal to replace community school with Anglican school

17 May, 2024

A plan by school governors and the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education (SBDE) to close the only primary school with no religious character, Charlotte Sharman Primary, in its ward has been criticised by Humanists UK as being out of touch with both the make-up and opinion of the local community. 

The closure is being proposed as part of the plans to tackle falling roll numbers across two primary schools – Charlotte Sharman and St Jude’s Church of England Primary School – but if it went ahead it would mean the new school would retain the faith designation of St Jude’s. Stage two of the consultation process has now closed. In the previous consultation stage the proposal received 112 responses, of which 83 were against – many citing concerns about the new school being having a faith designation. A petition launched by the Southwark branch of the National Education Union (NEU) attracted 919 signatures in opposition to the plans. 

Responding to the consultation Humanists UK expressed concerns about the implications a merger could have on school admissions and employment policies, and the teaching of Religious Education (RE). As a faith school, the merged school would be able to prioritise its pupils and staff based on their religion, and RE would be taught from a Christian perspective and not be pluralistic as required in a maintained school. It also questioned why the governors and SBDE were pursuing a plan that would result in a faith school when Charlotte Sharman Primary, a school of no religious character, has more children (134) on its roll than St Jude’s (81). 

Humanists UK also highlighted how the proposal to make the new school Anglican was unreflective of the local area. According to the Census, 38% of the population of the ward ticked ‘No religion’, 37% ‘Christian’, and 13% ‘Muslim’. In other words, 63% are not Christian. And among young people and parents, even more will not be Christian. The NEU petition states that ‘over 50% of the children in our school [Charlotte Sharman Primary] are Muslim and a further 17% have no faith’.

Commenting on the proposals Humanists UK’s Education Campaigns Manager said: 

‘While there is an undeniable need to tackle falling roll numbers in both schools, the proposal to close the only school with no religious character in St George’s ward is completely out of touch with both the make-up and opinion of the local community.

‘Faith schools can give preference to children from families that share their religion, and prioritise staff based on faith too. It’s time for all parties involved in the decision to look at these plans again and find a solution that doesn’t put pupils and staff not of the proposed school’s faith at a disadvantage.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 0203 675 0959.

Read more about our work on faith schools.

Read our previous story on the merger.

Read more about the merger plans

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 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.