Posted: Fri, 06 Mar 2020
Surrey County Council has been encouraged to press ahead with a plan to replace a community school with a faith school, despite most respondents to a consultation opposing the plan.
The council's cabinet member for all-age learning decisions has been advised to support the amalgamation of Christ Church C of E Infant School and Englefield Green Infant School.
The recommendation comes in a report from the council's strategic director of children, families and learning, which summarises the results of a recent consultation on the subject.
The plan will see the two schools merged into a single voluntary aided (VA) Church of England school on the Englefield Green site. Englefield Green is the larger and more modern of the two schools.
The report noted that:
- Sixty-three per cent of respondents to the council's consultation did not agree with the proposal.
- Forty respondents objected to the fact the new school would be a church school, whereas 29 respondents supported that.
The cabinet member will now consider the report in a public meeting on Tuesday, before the council's leader makes a final decision on the proposal in May.
VA schools are usually given significant leeway to enforce a stringent religious ethos, including by practising religious discrimination in their admissions policies.
The council's report claims the school will be "a church school for the community and therefore will be inclusive of families of all faiths or with no religious beliefs".
The new school will adopt Englefield Green's current admissions policy in the first year of its existence. But as VA faith schools act as their own admissions authorities, the school could potentially change this in future.
The National Secular Society, which runs the No More Faith Schools campaign, has lobbied against the plan and warned that it would disadvantage non-Anglican families.
NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "It's very disappointing that Surrey County Council appears set to press ahead with this plan despite the fact most respondents to its consultation disagreed with it.
"Replacing a community school with a faith school would further embed religious control of the education system at the expense of children's religious freedom and social cohesion.
"We urge the cabinet member to listen to local residents and reject this deeply misguided idea."
- Only 12% of British people say they belong to the Church of England – including just one per cent of people aged 18-24. The population of Englefield Green area is significantly younger than the average for England and Wales and southeastern England, as 42% of residents are aged 18-29.
- Both Christ Church C of E Infant School and St Jude's C of E Junior School (a local junior school which, according to the council, would "work closely" with the new faith school) operate discriminatory admission policies.
Further notes on VA faith schools
- VA faith schools are permitted to teach denominational religious education (meaning RE is inspected by the religious body that runs them, rather than Ofsted).
- VA faith schools can apply a religious test when hiring, promoting or retaining any teacher. In practice such discrimination is usually restricted to senior roles and RE teachers.