Specific schools in England scrap '50 per cent rule' and admissions could be 'harder'

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Pupils -Credit:PA

Faith schools across England have ditched the '50 per cent rule' for admissions, potentially making it tougher for some children to secure a place. The rule, which previously required faith schools to allocate up to half of their places to pupils irrespective of their religious beliefs, has been scrapped, allowing these institutions to fully base admissions on faith criteria.

This significant shift means new faith schools can now select all their students based on faith, a move that Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, has criticised: "The proposal to allow 100 per cent religious discrimination in new state faith schools will increase religious and racial segregation in our schools at a time when integration and cohesion has never been more important."

He further commented on the potential negative impacts: "It will further disadvantage poorer families, non-religious families, and families of the 'wrong' religion. Rather than expanding religious selection, a government that cared about cohesion would be seeking to create a single admissions system where all state schools are open to children from any background or belief," reports Birmingham Live.

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Conversely, Ruth Kelly, former Labour education secretary and vice-president of the Catholic Union, welcomed the change: "I'm delighted that the education secretary has taken this decision. The Catholic church is one of the oldest providers of education in this country, and Catholic schools consistently produce higher than average results. The fact that Catholic free schools were prevented from opening never made sense. This decision is well earned recognition of the success of our schools and a vote of confidence in Catholic education in general."

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society said: "The creation of 'special faith-based academies' raises ethical issues concerning the imposition of religion on children with special educational needs and disabilities [SEND]. "We will be keen to ensure that Send provision is not used to expose vulnerable children to religious proselytising."

Meanwhile, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, has voiced concerns that the decision could result in selection "by the backdoor" and complicate the process for pupils to secure places at their local school.

"Such a change in policy feels inappropriate so close to an election and is something that should be incorporated into a manifesto," stated Whiteman.

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