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"A retrograde step" - Dr Ruth Wareham comments on plans to lift the cap on faith school admissions

Ruth Wareham“While largely motivated by the desire to increase the number of good school places, the decision to drop the 50% cap on religiously selective admissions is a retrograde step. There are a number of reasons to think this. First, there is evidence to suggest that, at least in the case of Christian schools, the cap has increased pupil diversity, a key factor in helping to dissolve inter-group prejudices and improve social cohesion.

“Second, although the new policy is likely to encourage religious groups (such as the Catholic Church) who have refused to open new schools because of the cap to reverse their decision, religiously selective policies have been shown to favour pupils with higher socio-economic status. So, it is likely that many of the new school places will be unfairly distributed to wealthier families.

“Finally, religious schools are increasingly moving away from the 'confessional' model of religious instruction - they teach from a religious perspective, but claim they do not wish to inculcate or indoctrinate children into a particular faith. Since these schools produce a range of other educational goods, many of which have little to do with faith or religious belief (e.g. high levels of academic attainment), selection processes which restrict access on the basis of religion are difficult to defend (particularly as these schools receive substantial public funding).

“While the need for new school places is undeniable, the Government must broaden the range of factors it takes into consideration when making decisions about how to provide them.”

19 February 2018

NOTES

Dr Wareham a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Spencer Foundation funded project, 'Faith Schooling: Principles and Policies' in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick.

Her research interests include religious education, religious schooling, indoctrination, citizenship education, politics and education, liberal theory, moral education, private education and selective education.

Ruth's academic background is in philosophy (BA and MPhil), but she also holds a PGCE in primary education and, prior to moving into academia, worked as a primary teacher in Birmingham and the West Midlands for six years.

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