An Islamic (primary) faith school has been proposed in Rochdale. Little information is currently available.
We have approached Rochdale Borough Council, seeking the local authority's view, and have contacted the Lancashire and West Yorkshire regional school commissioner (as well as the DfE) seeking copies of the proposal, so we can properly scrutinise it.
There are already 37 faith schools in Rochdale, and according to the government's information on free school applications there's no need for new school places.
The school will likely be able to select up to half its pupils based on faith. Based on previous example of Islamic 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 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.
The proposal may be linked to the nearby Light of Islam Academy, a local religious institution run by the Jamia Masjid Chashtiah.
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?
The full proposal should be published to allow proper scrutiny and a timeline for any consultations should be set out. Given the lack of need for new school places, the secretary of state should not support this proposal.
If more school places are needed in future, then all relevant parties (the local authority, Department for Education, regional school commissioner and local education providers) should work together to develop inclusive community ethos alternatives to faith schools.
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 Light Academy faith school, Rochdale
Petition: Rochdale Borough Council, and the Department for Education
An Islamic faith school shouldn't be opened in Rochdale without consultation or scrutiny. Any new school should have an inclusive community ethos, not an exclusive faith based one.
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