Posted: Tue, 21 Jul 2020
The No More Faith Schools campaign is challenging 19 proposals to open new faith-based academies in England, as it continues to support local activism in favour of inclusive, secular education.
The 19 faith schools are among a group of new schools which were proposed in wave 14 of the government's free schools programme in February. They include 14 Christian, three Islamic and two Sikh faith schools.
Concerns raised by school proposals
At least seven of the schools have been proposed in areas where government data shows the need for new school places is low or zero.
The government told the trust it had failed to demonstrate its ability to tackle failings in multiple areas, including leadership, safeguarding and special needs provision.
Another one, Bluecoat Church of England in Nuneaton, would be built on a site where there are two alternative proposals for schools with a community ethos.
Concerns over lack of transparency
The NMFS campaign has also warned that the proposals are not being properly scrutinised because of a lack of transparency around them.
In a recent blog, the campaign's coordinator Alastair Lichten outlined research revealing a "damaging democratic deficit" around the applications.
The National Secular Society, which coordinates the NMFS campaign, recently asked the Department for Education to see details of the proposals for the schools.
The DfE has since rejected the NSS's request and the NSS has now requested an independent review of that decision.
The lack of information means some of the proposals in wave 14 may have already been approved for pre-opening – or rejected, but leaving open the possibility that they reappear in future waves.
NMFS campaign comment
Mr Lichten called on supporters to help the NMFS campaign make its case.
"Opening new faith schools would embed religious control of education, when the government should seek to roll it back.
"It will also exacerbate discrimination and segregation, when ministers should be seeking to tackle these problems.
"Given the lack of transparency around or scrutiny of these proposals, it's important that advocates of inclusive, community-ethos education get organised. We want to work with local supporters to build broad and positive coalitions to challenge these proposals and support secular alternatives."
Find out more about the proposals
Three proposed schools in Sandwell, Nuneaton and West Sussex are mentioned above. You can find out what we know about the other proposals, and how you can help us to respond, on our local campaign pages:
- St. Joseph's C of E, Hartlepool – a primary faith school proposed despite a lack of need for new school places.
- Conningbrook C of E, Kent – a primary school on a new housing development.
- Immanuel faith school, Bexley – where the government says there is zero need for new school places.
- King David, Lewisham – where the government says there is zero need for new school places.
- Avenue CofE, Wingerworth – in Derbyshire, where there are already 128 faith schools.
- IPIE Trust, Haringey – it's unclear whether this will be a special needs school and there is no need for new mainstream places.
- International Christian School, Newham – where the government's figures on the need for new school places would not justify a full new school.
- St Benet's, Norfolk – in a local authority which already has 125 faith schools.
- Broadway Academy, Birmingham – where there is little information available. The proposal is in the planning stage and will likely be included in a future wave.
- Light Academy in Rochdale – where there's little information available.
- Wymondham, Norfolk – where there's little information available.
- Jinnah Academy, Leeds – where there's little information available.
- Sullivan Academy, Manchester – where there's little information available.
- Nishkam High, Wolverhampton – where the government says only 50 new places are needed across the city, meaning a new school isn't necessary.
- Eden Boys, Coventry – which already has a girls' faith school, and where there's little information available.
- An unnamed new faith school in North Hampshire.