It wasn’t until I had children that I even realised that many state schools discriminate against some children on the basis of faith or belief. Those schools – taxpayer funded, badged as ‘faith schools’ – can turn away applications from children from the ‘wrong faith’ or none.
We hear from parents in Alice’s exact position every day. People who naturally assumed that religious discrimination would be illegal in schools, as it is everywhere else, only to find it is not just completely legal, but commonplace, and aggressively protected by religious interest groups.
53% of British adults say they have ‘no religion’, with the number rising dramatically higher for the younger generation. For parents of today’s school-age children, it’s around 61%. But in some areas, non-religious families can find it practically impossible to get into a local school, such is the extent of the problem.
We’ve supported parents to challenge religious discrimination in school selection – but now we need to go further and address the system as a whole.
Dear Nadhim Zahawi MP,
Secretary of State for Education
We ask you to remove the ability of state schools to choose their pupils on the basis of religion. Education is a public service that should be open to all, free from discrimination.
Parents have an explicit right in the European Convention of Human Rights to bring up their children in the religion or belief of their choice without illegitimate interference from the state. However, they do not have a right to state funding for confessional religious teaching or faith schools that are in line with their own beliefs.
We do not think that state schools should be allowed to choose pupils on the basis of religion. We are concerned that the proliferation of state-funded religious schools is making for a more segregated future. When studies show that religious selection for pupils also results, deliberately or otherwise, in racial and socio-economic selection, we think the social case against religious schools is even stronger.