New concerns over government plans for faith schools

New concerns over government plans for faith schools

Faith leaders including the Chief Rabbi initially welcomed plans for faith schools, but a new change includes previously unknown elements

Fresh concerns have been sparked over the government’s plans for faith schools.

Jewish and Catholic leaders including the Chief Rabbi applauded the government’s announcement two weeks ago to scrap a requirement for new free schools to accept 50 percent of its intake from outside the faith.

At the time, Theresa May highlighted the academic successes of faith schools.

But a new consultation paper, while acknowledging evidence that the 50 percent rule doesn’t promote diversity, proposes that new faith schools will have to demonstrate “through consultations and signatures that parents of other faiths would want to send their children” to the school.

It’s understood that Jewish leaders were unaware of this stipulation when they welcomed the prime minister’s pledge and are now seeking clarification on the proposal. A communal source said one of the weaknesses of the the 50 percent cap was the fact people of other faiths or none didn’t want to send their children to a school of another faith in large numbers, making the new suggestion “a strange stipulation” that could put a barrier in the way of new faith schools springing up.

Rabbi David Meyer, Executive Director of Partnerships for Jewish Schools, said: “PAJES welcomes the removal of the 50% cap and are currently in discussions with the DfE regarding the proposed guidelines, which contains certain elements that appear to be inconsistent with the Prime Minister’s comments and her determination to support the opening of more faith schools.”

The new consultation document also suggests twinning of schools of different faiths that could see “sharing teachers” and joint assemblies. It also proposes including a person of another faith or none on schools’ governing bodies “to help ensure the have a wider perspective”.

The government is pushing reform in order to “enhance understanding of other faiths; promote community cohesion and properly prepare children for life in modern Britain,” the document says.

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