The new education secretary has suggested he will push through the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to end the 50 percent cap on faith-based admissions for faith schools.
In an interview with The Times, newly promoted Damian Hinds MP said his view of the controversial admissions cap was that it was not necessary.
Hinds, tipped as a future Tory leader, took over from Justine Greening in last month’s cabinet reshuffle. A practising Catholic, he attended at a voluntary-aided Roman Catholic grammar school in Cheshire and is a known critic of the cap.
Jewish leaders applauded him on Monday, after he said he intended to allow new faith schools to recruit more than 50 percent of their pupils by religion, which they are currently restricted to.
“There are thousands of faith schools all over the country and almost none of them have a cap on their admissions,” he said. “The cap relates only to new free schools of a religious character.”
He added: “I’m interested in having good school places and that includes schools with a religious aspect. Where there is parental demand and where there is a need for places, I want it to be possible to create those new schools.”
In a tweet, Board of Deputies’ vice-president Sheila Gewolb wrote: “I welcome @DamianHinds moves to lift 50% cap on admissions to faith free schools. Faith schools should be celebrated, not stigmatised.”
The Government’s green paper of last year stated that “some faiths have felt unable to open new schools through the free schools route because they say it contravenes religious rules”.
Humanists UK said: “It is not appropriate for the Government to introduce a change in policy that will result in more discrimination and more segregation in the education system simply because some religious organisations for allegedly religious reasons are not willing to cater for all children, regardless of religion or belief, when operating schools paid for by public money.”
In July, a spokesman for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the value of Jewish schools lies in providing “a completely immersive Jewish environment, something which is far more challenging if the 50 per cent rule is applied”.