The Chief Rabbi has welcomed the Government’s announcement that there will be no cap on faith-based entry criteria for voluntary-aided schools.
It follows an announcement from Education Secretary Damien Hinds about a selective schools expansion programme, with ministers inviting local councils to open faith-based voluntary-aided schools jointly with religious groups.
In common with faith schools in the state sector, these new voluntary-aided faith schools will be able to choose 100 percent of their intake based on faith, instead of being limited to only 50 percent of faith-based admissions for free schools.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis described the announcement as “an extremely positive development,” saying: “There is no inherent contradiction between a school with faith based entry criteria and a school which champions British values and respect for people of all backgrounds.”
He added that “by allowing, once again, the establishment of voluntary-aided schools without any cap on faith based entry criteria, the Government has strongly endorsed that view”.
During the last election, the Tories said they would bin the cap on faith-based free schools, by which only half the places can be given on the grounds of religion.
This would have brought free schools in-line with other faith schools in the state sector, but the government has decided not to pursue this, instead saying it would give money to local authorities for the creation of a new generation of “voluntary-aided” faith schools.
Mirvis said that current demand for “an immersive Jewish education” is being met by existing Jewish schools at both primary- and second-school level, but said the government’s new policy may prove useful one day.
“News that in future, this voluntary-aided option will be available to us, should the need arise, will be welcomed warmly by the vast majority of our community,” he said.
In one of his last statements before his three-year tenure ended this weekend, Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush welcomed the Government’s commitment to help open more faith schools through designated funding to local authorities.
“The popularity of faith schools with parents reflects their academic results, ethos, behavioural standards and the contribution that their pupils go on to make in wider society,” he said. “It is no accident that one in every three schools in Britain is a faith school.
However, he said: “We are disappointed that the Government has gone back on a manifesto commitment to drop the 50 percent cap on faith-based admissions for new free schools of a religious character. Whatever the intentions behind it, and while the cap does have some supporters in our own community, the 50 percent cap has not been proven to promote cohesion in practice.”
“We warmly welcome the announcement of new government funding to create voluntary aided Jewish schools. The decision will allow new faith schools to apply for voluntary aided status, which will allow the schools to admit 100% of pupils on religious grounds, as well as enabling faith schools to enter into the state sector.
PaJeS has worked with the government extensively over the last two years to address concerns over the future of faith schools, whilst reconciling the government’s need to promote inclusivity and tolerance in accordance with British values.
Rabbi David Meyer, Executive Director, Partnerships for Jewish Schools said: “We warmly welcome the announcement of new government funding to create voluntary aided Jewish schools. The decision will allow new faith schools to apply for voluntary aided status, which will allow the schools to admit 100% of pupils on religious grounds, as well as enabling faith schools to enter into the state sector.
PaJeS has worked with the government extensively over the last two years to address concerns over the future of faith schools, whilst reconciling the government’s need to promote inclusivity and tolerance in accordance with British values.”
The announcement represents a huge success for our efforts on behalf of the Jewish community and is the result of extensive government consultation with us to help navigate a solution to the future of faith schools. I would like to express my gratitude to Education Secretary Damian Hinds who has advocated the invaluable role that faith schools play in promoting universal values and their contribution to society.”