Aquila, the Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust has proposed a Christian primary school in Kent. This will serve the 750 new homes in the Conningbrook Park development.
The developer, Quinn Estates is providing the school site in exchange for planning permission, meaning the cost is effectively passed on to home buyers who may then be excluded by the school's admissions or ethos. While there is currently a surplus of places there is a predicted need for significant numbers of primary places given new housing. There are already at least five faith based primary schools within three miles of the site.
Schools in the trust operate a mix of open and discriminatory admission policies. The school would likely be able to select up to half its pupils based on faith.
We have approached Kent County Council, seeking the local authority's view. We've contacted the South-East England and South London regional school commissioner and the Department for Education seeking copies of the proposal, so we can properly scrutinise it. As it will be a free school, the council doesn't intend to do any additional consultation to provide evidence of residents' views.
Update 6 July 2020: The Department for Education has refused to publish the application forms for 19 faith schools proposed in wave 14 of the free school programme. They have confirmed that an unspecified number of these applications have been rejected, though they may reappear in a future round. The Department's justification includes that application should be "free from speculation and lobbying until the final decision is made". We regard this as an unacceptable attempt to restrict criticism from civil society and are considering an appeal against the decision.
Update 9 February 2021: The Department for Education has announced that this proposal has been approved in principle.
What's our view?
The full proposal should be published to allow proper scrutiny and a timeline for any consultations should be set out. The secretary of state should not support this proposal. All relevant parties (the local authority, Department for Education, regional school commissioner and local education providers) should work together to develop an alternative with a community ethos to meet the need for new school places suitable for the whole community.
Who are we?
No More Faith Schools is a national campaign coordinated by the National Secular Society and with supporters from a broad social, political and religious spectrum. We're dedicated to an end to state funded faith schools. We would like all schools to have an inclusive community ethos, free from any religious discrimination, privilege or control.
We help people challenge new faith schools, particularly where they have discriminatory admissions rules and where there are proposals for inclusive alternatives.
When do you get a say?
This application is part of wave 14 of the government's free school programme. The application may also reappear in future waves. Dates of this wave may be subject to change as a result of the Covid-19 crisis and opportunities for consultation are extremely limited. Interviews with wave 14 applicants may take place from spring 2020, with decisions by the DfE from the summer.
There is currently no information on Aquila's website about the proposal or any consultations. Please sign and share the petition below, ideally with a comment, to contribute to our challenge against the proposal. Sign up to stay up to date with any developments.
Oppose the new Conningbrook C of E faith school, Kent
A Christian faith school shouldn't be opened in Kent without consultation or scrutiny. Any new school should have an inclusive community ethos, not an exclusive faith based one.
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