Bad news on academies
Thank you if you emailed your MP about the Academies Bill in response to an urgent appeal a few days ago, but it doesn’t look as though we’ve had much success. One of our members had an email from his MP, as follows:
Thank you for your email … and I note your concerns.
However, I have a different view to you on this matter and am a great advocate of faith schools.
I think you will find that there are safeguards for a balanced curriculum and I will not be tabling any amendments.
Dr Therese Coffey MP
The Academies Bill is being rushed through Parliament with undue haste to try to get it sorted before the summer recess, which starts on 27 July. Amendments tabled by Dr Julian Huppert MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, would have prevented or restricted religious discrimination in the new Academiesâ€™ admissions policies.
The reality is that new religious Academies will be able to discriminate against children on religious grounds, excluding those of the â€˜wrongâ€™ or no religion. It will prevent many existing â€˜faith schoolsâ€™ from ever becoming inclusive and could lead to some discriminating in admissions when they didnâ€™t before. By freeing these new â€˜faith Academiesâ€™ from the national curriculum, the Bill could also expose children to extreme religious views, including creationism.â€™
The majority of the public are concerned about the influence of religious groups in our schools, but the Government has simply refused to address their concerns. It has rushed through this legislation without proper scrutiny and in doing so risks permanently entrenching religious discrimination and privilege in our schools system. It will be parents, teachers and children themselves who will be left to pick up the pieces.
Our main fear has been the opportunities that the bill will create for those who wants to set up more faith schools, but another should be the prospect of greater social division if Education Secretary Michael Gove’s pet project, free schools, become popular. Dr Susanne Wiborg of the Institute of Education says that they could create social segregation and that the net improvements will be limited:
If the neo-liberal reforms increased inequality of achievement as well as social segregation in Sweden, a country with a universal welfare state and a relatively high level of social equality, then other countries could risk an even greater increase in inequality from implementing similar kinds of independent schools.