Khalsa Academy Trust has proposed a Sikh (secondary) faith school in Sandwell. The trust has recently been stripped of control of its flagship Stoke Poges school due to failings in multiple areas, including leadership, safeguarding and special needs provision. Low demand had previously meant some non-religious and Christian parents were allocated the school despite not including it in their list of preferences.
The proposed school will likely be able to select up to half of its pupils based on faith. Based on previous example of Sikh faith schools, it is likely to attract few if any applications from families of other faith backgrounds and is likely to be largely mono-faith, with its children all coming from similar ethnic backgrounds. It is possible families of different faith backgrounds may be assigned the school against their wishes, though this risk is reduced if other local schools are not oversubscribed.
There are already 21 faith schools in Sandwell. Parts of the district have a high need for new school places; parts have only a low need.
We have approached Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, seeking the local authority's view. We've also contacted the West Midlands regional school commissioner and the Department for Education seeking copies of the proposal, so we can properly scrutinise it.
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 14 April 2021: This proposal was not appear to have been supported under Wave 14 of the free school programme. The lack of details from the DfE mean the status of applications are not always clear and they may be resubmitted in future waves.
What's our view?
It would be completely inappropriate for an academy trust to expand so soon after being stripped of its flagship school due to serious failings. The secretary of state should not support this proposal. If there is a need for more school places in Sandwell, then 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. The full proposal should be published to allow proper scrutiny and a timeline for any consultations should be set out.
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.
We're seeking further information and will update supporters as soon as we know more about any consultations or a chance to have your say. Please sign and share the petition below, ideally with a comment, to contribute to our challenge against the proposal.
Oppose the new Khalsa Academy faith school, Sandwell
Petition: Sandwell Council, and the Department for Education
A trust stripped of one academy for governance failures shouldn't open another one. Any new school in Sandwell should have an inclusive, community ethos, not an exclusive faith one.
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