Politicians and public question DfE over faith school admissions row

ALMOST 40 parliamentary questions have been tabled about the Department for Education's decision to stop campaign groups being able to object to faith schools' admission policies.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced last month that she plans to stop secularist organisations from making what she described as “vexatious” complaints in order to “unclog” the system for parents.

Under proposed changes only complaints from local parents and councils will be considered.

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The British Humanist Association (BHA) has claimed the move is a thinly veiled attack on their organisation after it published a report highlighting widespread failure to stick to the current rules by religiously selective schools. The report, from an investigation by the Fair Access campaign, said that from a random sample of 70 religiously selective schools 69 were found to have broken the school admissions code. Although not all complaints were upheld by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, there were still around 1,500 breaches.

Now the BHA have revealed almost 40 questions have been submitted by MPs and peers and more than 1,000 people have written to the Department for Education questioning the new ban on campaign groups complaining about school admissions policies. BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said: “Our report revealed not only that unfairness and injustice is rife in the school admissions system, but also a pervasive lack of transparency and accountability too.

“The Government’s move to defend the appalling record of religiously-selective schools rather than uphold the rights and fair access of parents and children is therefore utterly bizarre.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “There is a clear and transparent system for parents and local authorities to raise objections or highlight when they believe a school is breaching the admissions code. This will not change.

“Our proposals are about stopping pressure groups clogging up the system with vexatious complaints solely designed to attack faith schools.”