Taxpayers fund vast majority of discriminatory faith schools’ costs

Posted: Mon, 11 Nov 2019

School corridor

Taxpayers are funding a larger proportion of the building costs of faith schools which can potentially select all their children on religious grounds than they were a decade ago.

Research from the Accord Coalition, which promotes inclusive education, has found that voluntary aided (VA) faith schools in England contribute just 7.1% of their total capital costs.

The figure, which takes into account all central capital funding schemes, has fallen from 9.4% since 2009-10 – a drop of about a quarter.

Capital costs – which tend to fund the buildings and land required to set up schools – are just a small part of the expense incurred by VA schools. All of the schools' running costs are met by the state.

The total sum which VA faith schools spend on their capital costs has fallen from £67m to £18m since 2009-10.

In recent years many VA schools have converted to academies, meaning they have all their running and capital costs paid for by the state, as do new faith based academies.

The faith based foundations which run VA schools own all the capital assets even if they only pay a very small contribution towards them. Some local authorities also gift land and buildings to VA schools.

No More Faith Schools campaigner Alastair Lichten said the figures showed "a worrying trend".

"The state should fund inclusive schools which enable children to make their own minds up about religion. Many taxpayers will wonder why they are instead funding religious groups' efforts to recruit the next generation of believers in schools which can discriminate against children based on their families' beliefs."

Stephen Terry, Accord's chair, said it was "disgraceful" that "with no public debate, discriminatory faith schools have seen a significant increase in their public subsidy over the last decade".

What is a voluntary aided school?

  • A VA faith school has a formal religious designation and a wide ability to both discriminate on the basis of that religion and promote it through the curriculum and other activities.
  • The school acts as its own admissions authority and can appoint teachers on religious grounds. The religious foundation that founds the school appoints a majority of governors based on their ability to promote the school's religious ethos.

Where the money comes from

  • Schools receive three main sources of funds for capital projects: the 'capital funding' arrangement, the private finance initiative (PFI) and the priority school building programme (PSBP).
    • Under the capital funding arrangement and PFI, VA schools contribute 15%, 10% or 0% of their capital costs depending on agreement (10% is most typical).
    • Under PSBP, VA schools are not required to make a statutory contribution, but a 10% contribution may be requested.
  • VA schools' contributions to their capital costs are not necessarily provided in full by the religious organisations which run them. Governing bodies often seek funds from parents or benefit from a range of other public grants.

Further note

  • The figures from Accord do not include allocations for schools' basic needs, which cover all schools and total between £1.1bn and £1.6bn a year. There is no statutory need for VA schools to contribute to these costs when local authorities decide to use money to support them.

Tags: Accord Coalition, Funding