Posted: Wed, 23 Jun 2021
A proposal to open a Church of England secondary school with an exclusive religious ethos in Kingston-upon-Thames has been approved by the local council.
A Kingston Council committee voted to approve plans to open the faith school at a meeting last Thursday, despite substantial local opposition and concerns over a lack of transparency.
The school, which will have voluntary aided (VA) status, will be able to select up to one third of its pupils based on faith if it is oversubscribed. That proportion could theoretically rise in future.
VA faith schools are allowed to teach faith based religious education and relationships and sex education. They are also often particularly assertive in enforcing daily acts of denominational worship.
The No More Faith Schools campaign is supporting local residents in opposition to the plan to open the faith school and has urged the council to pursue inclusive, secular alternatives.
Criticisms of plan
Evidence submitted to the committee highlighted the discriminatory nature of the school's admissions and parts of its curriculum.
There was also criticism of a consultation process around the plans, which was largely controlled by the C of E diocese proposing the school. The diocese encouraged supportive responses to its plans.
Meanwhile local head teachers have robustly challenged claims that a new faith school is needed to deliver new school places in the area. There are now suggestions that the capacity at the school may have to be scaled back.
Earlier in the process the council was also forced to rerun a period where representations could be heard, after originally outsourcing this to the diocese.
The NMFS campaign has raised concerns over the lack of transparency around proposals to open new faith schools around England.
Meanwhile concerns have been raised that personal information on those who responded to the council's consultation may have been disclosed. The NMFS campaign is seeking clarification on these claims.
NMFS campaign comment
NMFS campaign coordinator Alastair Lichten said the decision to approve the faith school was "deeply disappointing".
"Kingston Council's decision will suit the Church of England's interests but the case for opening any new school here, let alone a faith school, is extremely weak.
"Local residents would be best served by places in inclusive, secular schools which teach children together regardless of their families' beliefs, and which don't push religious worldviews on children.
"There's also been a lack of meaningful consultation over, and transparency around, these proposals. This is part of a national problem, which means faith schools are being foisted on communities who don't need or want them.
"However, as in all such cases, we are continuing to work with local supporters to make the argument against this divisive and damaging proposal. We're exploring all avenues as we consider our next steps. There may still be a very long way to go for this campaign."