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  News!!  - all the latest developments

Geographical list of Plans for new faith schools

MPs urge "extreme caution" about more faith schools
Select Committee on Education & Skills warns against "ethnically segregated schooling"

Church schools resist admitting children in care
Selective admission policies under threat from Government circular (1/6/03)

Ban on selection interviews delayed until 2005
The C. of E. and RCs get a few more years to size up their applicants (Nov. 2002)

Blair overrides opposition and gives go-ahead to faith school expansion
Tony Blair is forcing through the expansion of faith-based schools against all opposition - even in the DfES. (1/3/02)
List of potential faith school projects

Teaching unions oppose faith-based schools
Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference resolution
(26/3/02) and quotes from ATL General Secretary
National Association of Schoolmasters / Union of Women Teachers conference resolution (4/4/02) and quotes from NAS/UWT general secretary and general secretary designate

Catholics resist inclusiveness
Scottish plan to end division in schools excites hostility (13/3/02)

Church of England threatens teachers opposed to more faith schools
The Church of England threatens teachers at C of E schools who oppose expansion of faith schooling (1/3/02)

The Church Schools Company
Background on the leading sponsor of City Academies

Creationist teaching in state schools
Complete rundown on the developing scandal
Plans for new faith schools
[by location - bold type indicates new on this website]

Blackburn - new C of E school means expanded provision (July 2002)
Bromley - plans for new C of E comprehensive (30/1/02)
Bury - Jewish boys' school to become voluntary aided (Nov. 2002)
Chelmsford - Rainsford High goes to C of E (Sept. 2002)
Doncaster - C of E takes over Rossington School (21/8/02)
- new Vardy creationist academy proposed (March 2003)
- Catholic academy means closure of community school (Nov 2002, May 2003)
Hertfordshire - plans for Jewish secondary school (15/6/02)
Hull - in line for a Vardy creationist academy? (May 2003)
Kingston-on-Thames - C of E plans takeover of Southboroough School (Nov. 2002)
Lambeth - Church Schools Company to start City Academy (22/2/02)

Leeds - new C of E City Academy means loss of community boys' school (Nov. 2002)
Leeds - in line for a Vardy creationist academy? (May 2003)
Leicester - new C of E aided primary school (July 2002)
Leicester - C of E Academy gets go-ahead; Muslim application stalled (May 2003)
Liverpool: Joint C of E / Roman Catholic City Academy (August 2002)
London - plans for multi-faith school collapse (12/3/02)
Manchester - Church Schools Company to convert largely Muslim school to City Academy (1/4/02)
Middlesbrough - another Vardy Foundation school - more creationism? (22/2/02 &c)

Newcastle-upon-Tyne - in line for a Vardy creationist academy? (May 2003)
Northampton: Church Schools Company to turn community school into City Academy (19/7/02)
Nottingham - C of E buys school for £1 (21/1/02)
Salford - Jewish girls' school to become voluntary aided (12/11/02)
Slough - State Primary Schools to be handed to Sikhs, Muslims (19/5/02)
Sunderland - in line for a Vardy creationist academy? (May 2003)
Waltham Forest - secondary school rejects Christian sponsorship (17/5/02)
Wandsworth - new Islamic school despite local spare school capacity (5/12/02 &c)
Warrington - two community schools passed to C of E (22/3/02; Sept. 2002)

MPs urge "extreme caution" about more faith schools

The Select Committee on Education and Skills has produced a report on the Government's policy of diversity in provision of schools. The report looks at religious schools as a part of this policy. One of their recommendations is:

We welcome the Government's more balanced approach to the promotion of faith schools and urge extreme caution in any future expansion of the faith sector. Tensions in Northern Ireland between the the two communities illustrate the problems that segregated schools can exacerbate. Future developments in this area should guard against the creation of ethnically segregated schooling.

Click here for further extracts relevant to religious schools; for the whole report, click here.

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Church schools resist admitting pupils in care

Governors and parents at church schools are being divided by new government guidelines which stipulate that children in care should be put at the top of admission lists.

The policy has sparked anger in some quarters that standards at some of the country's best state schools may be lowered. Others say children in care should always have been given priority by church schools on grounds of Christian fairness.

The guidelines from Whitehall, which come into force next year, call for all state-funded schools to give priority to children from care homes, who it describes as "a disadvantaged group who have very low levels of attainment". Church schools will retain discretion over their admissions, but are coming under pressure from the church itself to abide by the guidelines.

The Church of England provides a quarter of the primary schools in England. Many have excelled in league tables and are oversubscribed. Local education authorities, among others, have now come into conflict with rebel schools that are refusing to place children in care as a top priority.

At St Barnabas' Church of England primary in Pimlico, London, where last year there were about 50 applicants for 23 places, children who are practising Christians are placed before those in care. John Hicks, the school's head teacher, defended the policy:

"We know children in care must be educated but it can be detrimental to schools that are oversubscribed because in theory a child could arrive in the area and get in when other children in the parish can't."

In some schools governors plan to continue putting candidates from care homes at the bottom of their list, below even non-Christians.

"The blunt truth is church schools are operating a selective policy creaming off the middle class," said one governor of a London primary school that is refusing to adhere to the guidelines.

The government says 59% of the 60,000 children in care in England left school without a GCSE last year. It aims to cut this figure to 10% by 2006.

[Sunday Times, 1/6/03]

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Interview ban agreed - but not for a few years

Church schools will be banded from interviewing prospective pupils, but not until 2005. The move will anger some schools, which see interviews as a key way of maintaining their religious ethos, but it is supported by both Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders. They fear that accusations that the one in 10 church schools who interview applicants discriminate against working class pupils damage the image of all their schools.

Canon John Hall, general secretary of the Church of England Board of Education, said: "Everyone knows the criticisms, that interviews can be used for subtle social questioning. We do not think interviews are used that way but we also do not think they are necessary, so let us get rid of them."

Both churches believe references from a minister or priest could help schools assess a pupil's enthusiasm for a faith.

[TES, 27/10/02, 22/11/02]

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Blair ensures triumph of faith

Taxpayers’ money has been set aside to fund 44 new religious schools despite doubts amongst senior figures in Whitehall about the controversial policy. The £121 million plans are the first concrete signs that the Government intends to press ahead with its policy in the face of wide-spread opposition. The proposals include 15 newly-built schools, one Church of England secondary, and 14 primaries; eight C of E, three Roman Catholic, two Muslim and one Sikh. The others would be created by changing the ethos of existing schools. . .

There had been speculation that the Government was putting the policy on the back-burner amid concerns over increasing racial segregation…

Education Secretary Estelle Morris is believed to be among those who harbour private concerns about the wisdom of expanding faith schooling. But Prime Minister Tony Blair and schools minister Stephen Timms are both Christians and strong supporters of religious schools. They have won the argument, defeating a campaign by Labour backbenchers to overturn the policy. . .

Read the full report
    [but NB that details of the TES report are mistaken: see following item]

[Times Educational Supplement, 1/3/02]

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Analysis of the 44 budgetted projects

The TES report above refers to £121 mn being set aside by the Government for 44 voluntary aided faith school projects. These are in fact projects that are awaiting local School Organisation Committee approval.  These are in addition to the already announced 142 major new capital projects in Voluntary Aided schools.

These are the details of the potential additional projects:

Primary Secondary Other* TOTAL
New Expansion New Expansion
C of E 8 6 1 5 5 25
RC 3 2 - 4 3 12
Sikh 1 1 - 1 - 3
Muslim 2 - - - - 2
Jewish - - - 1 - 1
Non-denom. - - - 1 - 1
TOTAL 14 9 1 12 8 44

* for example, changes of age range.

The 14 new school projects are:

Blackburn with Darwen - new C of E primary
Bromley - new C of E secondary (Bishop Justus)
Coventry - new RC primary (St Benedict's)
Dorset - new C of E primary (New Gillingham)
East Sussex - new RC primary (Annecy)
Kent - new C of E primary (Springhead)
Kent - new C of E primary (Singleton)
Kent - new C of E primary (Greenhithe)
Leicester - new C of E primary
Slough - new Muslim primary
Slough - new Sikh primary
Swindon - new C of E primary
Tower Hamlets - new RC primary (St Elizabeth)
Wandsworth - new Muslim primary (Gatton)
Wigan - new C of E primary

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Proposals for Faith Schools - by location

NB: see also above


A new C of E voluntary aided primary school is to open in September 2004 to replace two smaller ones but with an overall increase of almost 100 places. The closing schools are St Andrew's (210 places) and St Bartholomew's (119 places); the new school will have 420 places.

[Public notice, 1 July 2002]

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There are plans for a new Church of England comprehensive school on a Green Belt site on Bromley Common.

Here are extracts from (a) a Bromley Council press release of 30/1/02 and (b) an earlier consultation document from the Council.


Councillors decided on 29 January to grant outline planning permissions to two separate applicants for sites at Bromley Common identified as suitable for the proposed new secondary school. The sites are the former Blue Circle Sports Ground and adjacent land, and a site at Magpie Hall Lane which includes part of the public golf course.

In coming to their conclusion about the sites, Councillors considered detailed environmental information, their location within the Green Belt, and concerns expressed by local residents. They also took into account the extensive investigations carried out into potential alternative sites outside the Green Belt. This decision allows the proposals to proceed to the next stage, and is now subject to Direction by both the Mayor of London [sic]. If the Mayor rejects these schemes, the applicants have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. This would lead to a Local Inquiry.

Councillor Tony Wilkinson, Chairman of Development Control Committee said, "This decision was based on very special circumstances demonstrating the urgent educational need to establish a new secondary school for the Borough. In reaching its decision, the Committee accepted that a strong case had been made for an additional secondary school, which was supported by the Department of Education and Skills, the School Organisation Committee and independent consultants."


Why are you opening a Church of England School?

There is a very strong case for opening a new school and for it being a C of E school.
· Bromley has eight C of E Primary schools but at secondary level provision is only available to boys at St Olave's & St. Saviour's Grammar School.
· Admission to the school would be mainly from the three C of E Deaneries of Bromley, Beckenham and Orpington, which cover almost the same area as the borough of Bromley. This would mean that nearly all of the places in the school would be taken up by Bromley children.
· The costs of building a new school will be in the order of £12 million. As a voluntary aided school up to 85% of the building costs would be met from grant aid by the Department of Education and Employment. The Council would be responsible for providing playing fields, most furniture and a caretaker's house. It is estimated that the total Bromley Council contribution to building and equipping the school will be between £1.5 and £3.5 million. The Rochester Diocese Board of Education will contribute £500,000.

Will my child be able to go there?

At the appropriate time you will be able to apply for a year 7 place at the school if you live in the area covered by the Deaneries of Bromley, Beckenham and Orpington, which cover almost the same area as Bromley.

The proposed admission criteria for the new school are:

1. Up to one third of admissions by parental attendance as worshippers on a regular basis at a Church of England parish in the Deanery of Bromley, the Deanery of Beckenham and the Deanery of Orpington to be certified by a clergy reference.

2. The remaining admissions to be decided by the following criteria:

a) Attendance at Church of England Voluntary Primary Schools in the Deanery of Bromley, Deanery of Beckenham and the Deanery of Orpington.

b) Parents' stated wish for their child to be educated according to the principles and practices of the Church of England.

If the school is oversubscribed the tiebreak will be proximity.

See Bromley's website for more details

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The independent Manchester Jewish Grammar School in Prestwich will become a voluntary aided school from November 2004 with new premises costing £5.4 million, only 10% of which will not be provided by the Government. The school is a single sex boys' school serving families from the Orthodox Jewish community within Bury and Salford. It will accommodate only 275 pupils, despite Audit Commission guidance that questions schools with fewer than 600 pupils (700 if there is a sixth form) and despite the existence nearby of the Jewish King David High School.

[NSS Newsline 29/11/02 and Bury Times newspaper website]

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Rainsford High School Chelmsford is now on course to become the first Church of England Aided Secondary School in Essex next September after many tasks and challenges during this year, which may include a name change.

[Chelmsford Diocese website, 9/02]

On 6 September 2002 the School Organisation Committee formally decided to approve proposals to change the category of Rainsford High School, Chelmsford, from Foundation to Church of England Voluntary Aided with effect from 1 September 2003

[Essex County Council statutory notice]

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Rossington High transferred to C of E

On Monday 19th August 2002 Doncaster School Organisation Committee gave the final approval for Rossington High School to change to Church of England Aided status from 1st September 2002. This concludes two years' work by the school, Doncaster Council and the Sheffield Diocesan Board of Education.

[Diocese of Sheffield press release 21/8/02]

Ownership of the Doncaster school's £1.25 million site has been transferred to the Diocese of Sheffield with the aid of a 90 per cent grant from the Department of Education and Skills and the Doncaster local authority. According to the church statistics report Religious Trends, South Yorkshire is one of the least religious parts of the country.

[National Secular Society Newsline 8/9.02]

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Creationist Academy proposed

Doncaster council has revealed that it hopes to rebuild Thorne grammar school as a £20 million academy using money from the Vardy Foundation, established by Christian fundamentalist and multi-millionaire car dealership owner Sir Peter Vardy. The foundation was criticised last year after reports that another school it funded, Emmanuel College in Gateshead, was teaching creationism.

A Vardy spokeswoman said the organisation was positive about the Doncaster school and stressed it would be open to pupils of all religions, although it would have a "backdrop of Christian values".

See more on the creationist Vardy Foundation.

[TES 21/3/03]

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Greenwich Council plans to close Abbey Wood community school together with St Paul's Catholic School and replace them with a Roman Catholic City Academy. Parents at Abbey Wood have attacked the decision, saying they want a school based on citizenship rather than religion. They have started a campaign to save the school.

[Local newspaper reports, November 2002 and May 2003]

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The Jewish Community Day School Advisory Board (80 East End Road, London NW3 2SY) is planning a 6-form- entry secondary school in Borehamwood. They plan to refurbish the former Hillside School site and are making a presentation to Hertfordshire councillors on June 27 2002.

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A successful community secondary school for boys - Southborough School - is almost certain to be handed over to the Church of England on 1 September 2003 following an initiative by the governors, the Southwark diocese of the C of E and the local education authority.

There would for the present be no change to admissions criteria but the school would explicitly set out to "challenge those who have no faith" (letter to British Humanist Association from P Osborne, chair of the school governors).

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The Church Schools Company is the sponsor for a City Academy, to be sited at the former Henry Thornton School in Clapham. The company has provided a statement about what is meant by the Christian ethos they propose for the school. There is a local campaign for a new secondary school in Lambeth: they wanted a community school rather than a religious one.

Move prompted by Downing Street

The move came about after Mr Harper met Downing Street policy guru Andrew Adonis. "I went to Number 10 and was told a city academy had been announced in Lambeth but the corporate sponsor had dropped out. We were asked if we would be prepared to take it on." Sponsors must raise up to 20 per cent of the cost of building a new school, or transforming an existing one. The rest, along with day-to-day costs, come from public funds, but sponsors run the academies.

The Church Schools Company's share of the bill for the new Lambeth academy comes to £2m - but the cash is not coming from its own funds. Various wealthy private trusts have pledged more than £1m and some parents have made donations.

[TES, 23/8/02]

Church Times report:

The Church Schools Company, which runs eight Anglican independent schools, is to sponsor a city academy in Lambeth, Southwark diocese, one of the poorest areas in the country. It is expected to open in September 2004.

The move is the first response by a group in the independent sector to the Government's drive for city academies, aimed at raising standards in largely deprived areas. City academies are run as non-fee-paying independent schools. The initiative, which has the backing of Lambeth Council, gained government approval last week.

Ewan Harper, chief executive of the Church Schools Company, said the group was considering sponsoring two similar schools . . . Eventually the group hopes to run as many city academies as it does fee-paying schools. All would be overtly Christian, but would reserve no places for children from church-going families. "Admission to our independent schools is open, and the same policy will apply in Lambeth and similar schools," he said.

The initiative was welcomed by David Lankshear, the Board of Education's schools officer, who said it would assist the drive for more Anglican secondary schools. A senior Anglican is to be co-opted to the company's governing body, and there is to be diocesan representation on the governing body of all new academies sponsored by the company.

The Church Schools Company, which was founded in 1882 by clergy and Anglican professionals concerned at the lack of educational opportunities for girls, is undertaking extensive fund-raising for its new project, because, while the Government provides most of the funding for city academies, it expects the sponsors to find £2 million in each case.

A spokesman for Lambeth Council's education department said: "We fully support the proposal. There is a real need for more secondary places in Lambeth."

[Church Times, 22/3/02]

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A community boys' school and Church of England girls' school in Leeds may close to make way for a new Church of England "academy", despite strong local opposition.  The Academy (to quote the DfES) "will be an 11-18 Academy with a specialism in design and construction. The sponsors, the Church of England and Intercity Companies will contribute £2 million."

Both Braim Wood Boys High School and Agnes Stewart C of E Aided High School will be closed in July 2004. Consultation shows strong opposition from parents at Braim Wood boys school, partly based on a wish to retain single-sex schools, particularly on the part of Muslim parents. The new building would be on a much valued green open space. A former vicar, now local councillor, Roger Harington, has warned that the proposals for a 900-pupil church "city academy" could split a Leeds community.

The local MP George Mudie (Leeds, East) said in Parliament (12/12/02): "Agnes Stewart school has been in special measures and is now regarded as having serious weaknesses. Instead of being given this new status and some £18 million in funds from the Department for Education and Skills, it is more of a candidate for closure. It has let youngsters down for many years, as scrutiny of the Ofsted report and of exam results over the years will clearly confirm.

"Braim Wood—the school that Agnes Stewart is taking over as part of the move towards an academy, and which, in effect, it is closing down—is smaller, but it has double the exam successes of Agnes Stewart. Braim Wood's size may well be explained by the education authority's making public its desire to let Agnes Stewart take it over. That has resulted in Braim Wood's being blighted, and parents are understandably not over-keen to send their children to a school in which their education will clearly be disrupted. Regardless of that, it has had a decent Ofsted. It is in a very attractive, semi-rural location and is well placed to attract a social mix. Whether the single sex aspect can be justified is forming, and has formed, an interesting part of the consultations.

"A really controversial aspect of the academy is the proposed new site on Fearnville fields. . . Residents' meetings have made it absolutely plain that they see no environmental sense in the proposal to build on one of the much prized and very scarce green spaces in the inner city. Perhaps even more importantly, nor do they see much educational sense in building there. What enrages local people is that, on standing in the field—the proposed site of the new academy—and looking northwards, one can see just 700 yd away a redundant high school building that is still standing. It was closed some five or six years ago, and is being used by the council for other activities. This raises some obvious questions. Although it is being used for various purposes, it could be made available, and it has land within its curtilage on which another school could be built. In other words, an educational establishment is still standing within 700 yards of the proposed site."

[DfES website; Leeds council consultation document and report; Hansard 12/12/02]

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A new C of E aided primary school is planned at North Hamilton. One in three places would be reserved for children of C of E worshippers, and another one in six places for other faith communities. The church will fund a "dedicated worship area". The proposal is likely to go ahead despite 21 out of 34 responses to the consultation being negative, 15 of them on grounds of likely divisiveness.

[Leicester City Council letter to British Humanist Association, 2/7/02, and enclosures]

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C of E Academy gets go-ahead from Council; Muslim application for aided school is stalled

A change of political control in the May 2003 elections means that plans for a new Church of England academy in Leicester may be re-considered. Before the election, the Council Cabinet overruled the recommendation of its education scrutiny committee and gave the academy the go-ahead.

The Education committee on 7 April noticed that a report from consultants about the Academy had played down the opinions of those opposed to it and emphasised the views of those in favour. Bishop Tim Stevens failed to persuade them to back the Church's plans. The proposals for the Academy have already prompted teaching unions to pass a vote of no confidence in the city's director of education, Steven Andrews and the councillor in charge of education, Brian Roberts. A ballot last year of the National Union of Teachers revealed almost total opposition to the creation of the academy.

The same April cabinet meeting rejected the education scrutiny committee's recommendation to approve an application from an independent Islamic secondary school for voluntary aided status. The private Islamic Academy had applied for voluntary aided status - i.e., public funding - but was opposed by local headteachers and the National Union of Teachers. The union said that it would have a serious effect on surrounding schools, which would lose large numbers of pupils.

Freda Hussein, principal of the Moat Community College, which has 85 per cent Muslim pupils, said: "Other schools in the city have had to close in the past because there were more places than children. This is still the case."

Dr Mohammed Mukadam, the principal of the Islamic Academy, denied that other schools would lose out if his school became voluntary aided and expanded. The school would have "an Islamic ethos", with girls and boys being educated separately, and girls being required to wear a headscarf. It also states that 25 per cent of the schools pupils would be non-Muslim, but it is not at all clear how realistic this is.

[TES, 29/11/02; National Secular Society Newsline 29/11/02 and 9/5/03; private information]

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A joint Anglican and Roman Catholic Academy Academy will replace Our Lady's Roman Catholic School. The sponsors are the Diocese of Liverpool.

Liverpool City Council and the Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses are aiming to open the new school, in the deprived Kensington area of the city, in September 2005.

[DfES website & National Secular Society Newsline 4/8/02]

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First multifaith school could open in 5 years

Religious leaders set out a plan for Britain's first multi-faith state school yesterday, as controversy continued over the Government's support for establishing more traditional church schools.

At a meeting in the House of Lords, representatives of the Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths published details of the proposed school, which is intended to link all the main religious communities. Leading Sikhs also back the project

Talks are under way with an unidentified London borough in which the school could be located. An outline of the plan has been given to Stephen Timms, the School Standards Minister. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who chairs the group that produced the plan, said he hoped the school would open within five years.

The idea is for a mixed comprehensive school with single-sex classes. An extended day will leave time for religious education in faith groups, with pupils coming together for other subjects. Parents will be expected to demonstrate a commitment to one of the faiths.

Although there are no British schools with such a wide range of faiths, the project has been modelled in collaboration with other institutions.

Rabbi Wittenberg said that the timing of the announcement, six months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, was particularly apt. "This project was not intended to be a response to that appalling tragedy, but in a way it is, because what we are trying to do with a faith-based school for many faiths is a way forward for us all," he said.

According to the prospectus for the school, last summer's disorder in northern towns and cities raised doubts about single-faith schools. It says: "A multifaith secondary school would provide the benefits of encountering and studying together, while offering all the advantages of a faith-based education."

The announcement came as the Education Bill, with its proposals for more faith schools, received its second reading in the House of Lords. The Church of England has set a target of opening another 100 secondary schools, and other faith groups also hope to benefit.

The integrated secondary schools in Northern Ireland offer the closest parallel to the present proposal, although they involve only Christian denominations. Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who chaired yesterday's meeting, said that the multifaith school would be different as it would bring together children from different cultures.

[The Times, 12/3/02]

UPDATE: Plans for the school seem to have collapsed owing to difficulties between the parties, although the following story in the TES was subsequently disputed:

Multi-faith plan collapses as religions 'cannot agree'

Ambitious plans to create the country's first multi-faith school have foundered over the practical difficulties of providing distinctive education for pupils from four religions on one site. Westminster council is set to reject the scheme at a meeting later this month. Tim Joiner, cabinet member for education, criticised the multi-faith school proposals as insufficiently thought through. The council claims there were disagreements over how pupils of different religions and sexes were to be educated. Boys and girls would have been educated in separate lessons. Although the school's Hindu, Christian and Jewish backers were happy to have both sexes mixing in the playground, its Muslim supporters were not. The multi-faith scheme also proved marginally less popular than a city academy amongst residents who responded to a council survey. .heads had resisted the plans.

[Times Education Supplement, 6/12/02]

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Church Schools Company takes over Ducie High School

School Standards Minister Stephen Timms announced today that the Church Schools Company are to sponsor a second City Academy. The Church Schools Company, which is already taking forward proposals for Lambeth City Academy will now act as co-sponsor with Manchester Science Park Ltd supporting a City Academy to replace Ducie High School in Manchester. The Church Schools Company, an ecumenical Christian educational charity with eight independent schools is committing £575,000 to the City Academy in Manchester. It will replace Ducie High School and is scheduled to open in September 2004. [It will be known as Moss Side City Academy.]

[Press release DfES 9/5/02]

David Miliband speech:

"This is where a huge opportunity lies. The Church Schools Company, responsible for eight independent schools for over a century, has decided to sponsor the Lambeth Academy. Since then it has also agreed to sponsor the Manchester and Northampton City Academies. This is a new and bold form of partnership. Established as a charity to help resolve one of the burning social issues of the day - how to enable women to play a fuller part in the social and economic life of the nation – the Church Schools Company is today extending its mission by committing to help young people in socially and economically deprived areas.They call it "a new long-term approach between the public and private sectors in education". I agree."

[Press release DfES 8/10/02]

Christian charity takeover of multicultural school alarms NUT

A multicultural school in Manchester is likely to be funded by a not-for-profit organisation which runs Christian independent schools, the National Union of Teachers' conference in Bournemouth heard yesterday.

The conference was told that a city academy which was due to take over Ducie High School in Manchester's Moss Side, is likely to be funded by the Church Schools Company, which manages Christian independent schools.

Last year the government announced that private money for the academy would come from a consortium of 70 companies at Manchester science park. The science park was due to donate £250,000 and has remained part of the bid. But ministers have invited the Church Schools Company, which is also setting up an academy in Lambeth, south London, to tender to take over the school. They have offered to put in £1m and have local authority support.

An NUT delegate, Tony Harper, a teacher at Ducie high, said 26 different languages were spoken at the school. "The development of a white, middle-class Christian ethos would be offensive in a school where probably 60% [of students] are from ethnic minorities," he said.

Euan Harper, chief executive of the company, said last night: "Our city academies will be open to everybody. As a Christian charity we are fundamentally concerned with running good schools. In that sense the unions and ourselves want the same thing."

[The Guardian, 1/4/02]

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Creationist Academy to open in September 2003

The Vardy family trust is providing £2m to sponsor one of two academies proposed for Middlesbrough. It will be formed by merging Brackenhoe and Coulby Newham secondaries. The DfES will provide £19,171,360.

[TES 22/2/02; Hansard written answer 17/6/02]

In autumn 2002 School Standards Minister David Miliband visited the site of King's Academy that will open in September next year.

Nigel McQuoid, principal of Emmanuel city technology college in Gateshead, will now also run The King's Academy, Middlesbrough, due to open in September. He said King's would share Emmanuel's approach of teaching the Christian view of creation but also the scientific one, and would not insist one was right. A handful of key staff from Emmanuel have already gained posts at King's, including a head of science and vice principal.

One teacher said staff were surprised by Emmanuel's role in King's as they had been assured by Middlesbrough Council that the two schools would be separate. One employee said: "We've had Emmanuel's schemes of work rammed down our throat since December. Prayers in tutor groups based on a bible extract chosen by the Vardy Foundation will be a daily requirement - have Muslim or atheist parents been informed?"

But Mr McQuoid denied teachers at King's were being made to use Emmanuel's work schemes and said they had merely been offered as examples. He said prayers would be held in tutor groups to meet the national requirement for a daily act of worship. Teachers, he said, would soon realise that the Vardy schools were open to all faiths and did not want to turn staff into "nutter evangelical whackos".

[TES 28/3/03]

There is a vigorous and somewhat sceptical campaign by local parents concerned about the proposals - see their website at and has a number of useful links.

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A privately-run Christian company has emerged as the biggest supporter of the Government's new City Academy schools programme.

The Church Schools Company, a charity that runs eight independent schools, announced plans yesterday to open the third of a network of the new-style schools. The decision to go into joint partnership with the Government to plough £20m into the 600-pupil Lings Upper school in Northampton means it will become the first sponsor to run three of the new schools.

[The Independent 19/7/02]

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Wilford Meadows Community School sold to C of E for £1 to become Emmanuel VA School

"The Resources Board on 16 July 2001 approved the sale of the school building of the former Wilford Meadows school to the Church at a purchase price of £1 (one pound). . . . Emmanuel School does not open until September 2002 . . . The sale price of £1 provides legal consideration for the purchase. Although the site is valued at £750,000, the Education & Employment Strategic Board have approved the sale of the property for use as a Voluntary Aided secondary school to meet the City's education policies and objectives. The repurchase clause in the contract enables the City Council to buy back the property for £1 should the Voluntary Aided school close.

[Report of the Director of Design & Property Services 6/11/02 to Nottingham City Resources Board meeting on 21/1/02]

The school has adopted the same admissions criteria as the Bluecoat School - the other CofE secondary school in Nottingham. These admissions criteria give heavy preference to active members of the local church.

[National Secular Society Newsline 8/9/02]

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The independent Beis Yaakov Jewish High School for Girls is to become a voluntary aided school with a new, purpose-built 275-pupil building expected to open in September 2004. The school has only 165 pupils at present, mostly from Salford and Bury.

[Salford Council website, 12/11/02]

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State Primary Schools to be handed to Sikhs, Muslims

The Department for Education and Skills has cleared in principle plans for two state primary schools in Berkshire to convert to Islam and Sikhism. It would be the first time that ordinary state schools have been handed over to minority faiths.

The two religious groups behind the scheme are being funded by Estelle Morris, the education secretary, to promote their plans to parents and school governors in Slough. If they win support from the community, 40% of which is Asian, a further £8m could be released to cover the conversion costs.

The plans will fuel controversy over Tony Blair's support for single faith schools. Many Labour MPs are opposed to the prime minister's plans and reports prepared for the government after last summer's race riots in Bradford, Burnley and Old-ham criticised the racial segregation of pupils. In the past, private Muslim schools and one Sikh school have secured state funding but as yet no state school has "converted".

Raminder Vig, the head of Lea junior school on the edge of Slough town centre, wants his school to convert to Sikhism. Up to 20% of pupils from other faiths would be given places but the school would follow Sikh values.

Plans for the Muslim school have been drafted by Zafar Au, the director of the citizens advice bureau in Slough and chairman of the town's race equality council. He is consulting a number of local state schools with a view to one of them converting to Islam. The consultation is being funded by the education department.

All said Muslim parents wanted an Islamic school. "There are a lot of parents who want a good foundation in Islamic values for their children. Since September 11 there has been opposition to Muslim schools, but I am tired of Islam being linked with fundamentalism. Muslim values are about family and looking after your family and your elders," he said.

Before the schemes can go ahead, the two groups will have to demonstrate that parents and governors favour the change.

The proposal for Lea school includes a plan for those children whose parents did not wish them to attend a Sikh school to be transferred to a new building on the same site. The education department has earmarked £6m for the new school for five to 11-year-olds, subject to local approval.

Vig, a Sikh, said: "Those children who did not want to attend a Sikh school could move to the other one. But nobody would have to move."

His school has mainly Muslim pupils, but the plan envisages that over seven years it would change to be 80% Sikh. "Asian values are being eroded and a school would keep them going," said Vig.

The Sikh group that Vig heads has been given £20,000 by the education department to cover the cost of consulting schools and parents. However, parents with children at his existing school were last week anxious about the plans. Rubina Ali, a Muslim parent of two boys, said: "Why would they want to change it to Sikh? It is getting good results. Changing it could only unsettle things."

Amanda Edwards, who has two children at the school, agreed. "If [the school] became dominated by one religion you would find a lot of people taking their children out," she said.

At Thames Valley school in the Chalvey area of Slough, where a majority of parents are Muslim, there was a similar lack of enthusiasm for an Islamic school. Rabia Fahid, a Muslim parent, said: "It is mostly Muslim anyway, but it is good for children to meet others from different religions. It would be divisive if it was a Muslim school."

Rob Anderson, the leader of Slough council, said it was helping to organise the consultations. "The council is keeping an open mind," he said. "I don't think such schools would harm race relations."

[Sunday Times, 19/5/02]

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A struggling school with a large Muslim intake has rejected a sponsorship offer from a Christian charity who planned to run it as a city academy. Governors at McEntee School in the London Borough of Waltham Forest decided it was not right for a Christian organisation to be in control of a school where a high percentage of pupils are of Muslim and other faiths.

The decision emerged after it was announced that the Church Schools Company is to commit £575,000 to a multi-ethnic secondary in the deprived Moss Side district of Manchester. The same company was offering to sponsor McEntee, where 50 percent of pupils are drawn from ethnic minorities.

The school, where just 17 per cent of pupils gained five A*-C GCSE passes, is seeking £2 million in sponsorship to become a city academy. But governors called off negotiations after the company issued demands that the head teacher and other members of the senior management team be practising Christians. . . .

Ric Euteneuer, chair of governors, said: "The sponsorship offer came with strings attached. They said it is part of their charter that the head be Christian and the governors did not feel comfortable with that. Parents were worried that the school would favour one particular faith and would not admit Muslims."

The Church Schools Company is an ecumenical Christian educational charity which runs eight independent schools. Ewan Harper, its chief executive, said: "We would require no Christian qualification for entry to our schools. At our independent schools there are more than 100 pupils of other faiths, including Muslim, whose parents pay for them to go there. Their religion and culture is respected and they do not find our Christian ethos a problem. We come from a very tolerant base. "Our schools have to have some sort of Christian ethos and the head has to be a practising Christian. I think the governors at McEntee felt uncomfortable with that. They felt it should remain a community school and that is understandable."

Times Education Supplement, 17/5/02

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A new Islamic primary school is to be opened in a disused school building in Tooting, in the London borough of Wandsworth. The Government is providing the Al-Risalah Educational Trust with £3 million towards construction costs and the school will open in September 2004.

The proposal was supported by the local Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops.

Many of the pupils will come from outside the borough but many existing local primary schools objected to the proposal, some of which are already undersubscribed.

Denzil Shepheard, head of Tooting Broadwater School, said "Our governors objected because we felt there was no need for a primary school to be built in this area and the council made it clear there is capacity and more in this area. It could have long-term effects on the viability of some schools." He feared that the removal of Muslim pupils would affect his school's ability - praised by Ofsted - to build an ethnically and religiously diverse, tolerant and understanding community. "There is a remarkable degree of racial harmony. It would be a pity of there were religious groups or ethnic groups that didn't form a part of a school."

Other objectors included the heads of Alderbrook, Beatrix Potter, Broadwater, Bellville and Fircroft schools.

[Wandsworth Borough Guardian, 5/12/02, 27/12/02]

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The creation of two new Church of England schools was approved by the School Organisation Committee at a meeting this week (Wednesday 20th March). The existing Sir Thomas Boteler High School will become the first CofE high school in Warrington. The new Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School, opening in September, will serve the local community and will allow children to continue their CofE education through to age 16. The new Sankey Valley St. James' CofE Primary School, currently Hood Manor Primary, will open in September 2002 providing further CofE primary education in Warrington.

[Warrington Council press release 22/3/02]

A Warrington school, originally founded by one of Henry VII's knights, is to become the first Cheshire school to convert to Church of England status. On September 2nd The status of the School changed to Church of England and was formally re-opened by the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster . . . as Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School. [It] will be managed in a partnership between Warrington Education Authority and the Church of England Dioceses of Liverpool and Chester.

[Chester Diocesan press release, September 2002]

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Teaching unions oppose faith-based schools

(a) Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference resolution

The government should abandon plans to increase the number of faith schools, a classroom union said yesterday.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference in Cardiff took a tougher line than its leadership, which has previously professed "serious reservations" in the way the policy has been implemented but accepted that minority faiths had a right to more state-sponsored schooling.

Delegates voted decisively, although not overwhelmingly, to "press the government to abandon the proposed increase in faith schools". Many ATL members teach in faith schools.

The union also demanded the government withdraws funds from schools which refuse to employ staff from other faiths or none.

Victoria Paleit, a teacher at Marlborough School in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, said Britain should look to the example of France and Germany, where state schools remained strictly secular despite almost equal numbers of Protestants and Catholics and large ethnic minority communities.

Delegate Ruth Nettleship, who was educated in Northern Ireland but has spent a career teaching in English schools, said: "Over the years I've come strongly to believe that such a system [in Northern Ireland] has to change there if tolerance and understanding between people is to be promoted. "I am very seriously concerned that an increase in faith schools here will lead to even greater chasms opening in society rather than being bridged."

[The Guardian, 27/3/02]

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Press statement by Peter Smith, ATL general secretary

Speaking to reporters at the ATL's annual conference in Cardiff, Peter Smith, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said he accepted that the right to state-funded faith schools should not only be confined to Christians.

"On the proposal to increase the number of faith schools, ATL believes that an inclusive democratic society which tolerates, respects and values a spectrum of religious beliefs should reflect the UK as a multi-ethnic, multi-faith community.

"Favouring, for largely historic reasons, some faiths at the expense of others can no longer be justified. However, we have grave reservations about how this policy is to be implemented in communities. It will be acutely difficult to distinguish between mainstream religions and cults or fundamentalist sects, many of which are backed by substantial private funds.

"The recent debate over the creationist school in Gateshead shows that the government is not willing to face these difficult issues head on. We do not think that public money should be used to fund cranks under the guise of freedom of speech.

"Suppose, for example, there was an application to open the Osama bin Laden academy: who exactly would say 'No, you can't'? On what justification?"  

Or what could be done, Mr Smith asked, about "colleges of new messianic ethics" run by David Icke, the former goalkeeper, sports presenter and self-proclaimed son of God?"

[Compiled from ATL press release, 25/3/02; The Guardian, 25/3/02, 26/3/02, Daily Telegraph, 26/3/02]

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(b) National Association of Schoolmasters / Union of Women Teachers conference resolution

Members of the second largest classroom teaching union voted to halt the creation of new faith schools and encourage existing schools to become secular by breaking their religious links.

Members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers approved a motion opposing the creation of more single faith schools because it would encourage "more social fragmentation".

The motion also declared that it was "an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money to fund schools with exclusive and discriminatory philosophies, whatever the system of belief to which they subscribe".

The NASUWT general secretary, Eamonn O'Kane, said it was increasingly clear that parents would stop at nothing to get their children into faith schools - which do relatively well academically - including converting to the appropriate religion. There were "more damascene conversions by the minute in England than there ever were in Syria", he said.

The result of the vote reflected a widespread concern about faith schools which was not present five or six years ago. "It has been accentuated by the prime minister's undoubted support for an increase in faith schools." Tony Blair and his wife send their three older children to top-performing Catholic state secondary schools in London.

[The Guardian, 5/4/02]

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Statements by NAS/UWT general secretary and general secretary designate

Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary, said Mr Blair's argument would produce "better-qualified bigots". Labour's policy of putting private-sector cash into schools made it possible for groups with "completely objectionable" views to get involved. The union warned that could lead to other groups ­ such as the Moonies ­ wanting to become involved in state schools.

Eamonn O'Kane, the union's general secretary designate, said: "You have got people putting millions into schools. These people have strong views and want them to be propagated. Once you accept this infusion of private capital into schools this sort of thing is bound to happen.

"The Moonies have millions. They could start a school with marvellous facilities and begin to develop the sort of thinking most people would find completely objectionable," he said.

[The Independent, 19/3/02]

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Catholic parents fight plan to integrate pupils

Catholic parents are fighting a scheme drawn up to end the divisiveness of Scotland's education system by allowing Catholic children to mix with pupils of other faiths at school.

As research reveals that four in five Scots believe the country's segregated education system, which separates children by religion at age five, should be abolished, the parents are mounting their campaign against a local authority for its plans bring Catholic pupils and those from other communities closer together.

In Dalkeith, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, the local authority, Midlothian, wants to replace two run-down high schools. One is Roman Catholic, the other is non-denominational. Under the plan, the schools, St David's RC High, and Dalkeith High, would be rebuilt side by side on a different campus. Each would retain its identity, but they would share some facilities, such as a canteen and assembly hall.

Outside Scotland, it may not seem like a radical move. But it will create a unique situation. For the first time, Catholic pupils, at lunch and class breaks, will be able to mix freely with pupils from other faiths, and those of no faith at all. The local authority thinks it the best solution. The head teachers are keen. The Catholic archbishop of Edinburgh, Keith O'Brien, has given his support.

But a group of Catholic parents, claimed to number 300, are implacably opposed. "We have written to the Pope. We are going to take this all the way to Rome," said Stephen Tiernan, of the parent action group. "There is a patent agenda that the councillors are going to try to get rid of Catholic schools by diluting what they are."

Read the full report

[The Guardian, 13/3/02]

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Church of England threatens teachers opposed to more faith schools

Teachers in Blackburn have accused the Church of England of threatening union members opposed to religious schools with disciplinary action.

A letter from the Anglican diocesan director of education raised the possibility of action against National Union of Teacher members who backed a motion critical of council plans to expand faith schools. The motion also demanded a review of faith schools admissions’ policies. It was passed at an NUT meeting last month and won support from staff at both C of E and Roman Catholic schools…

A teacher at a C of E school in Blackburn said: “I felt very threatened. It sounded like they were saying we had to go along with anything they said. I am not against faith schools but I have seen case where church schools will admit anyone white rather than an Asian.

"If we had more balanced admissions policies then we wouldn’t have the racial tensions that we have seen across many northern towns. We need a rational, open debate. For the Church toss prevent that makes me upset… "

Read the full report

[Times Educational Supplement, 1/3/02]

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The Church Schools Company

The Church Schools Company, founded in 1883, is an ecumenical Christian educational charity which runs eight independent schools. "Our schools have to have some sort of Christian ethos and the head has to be a practising Christian." said the company's chief executive Ewan Harper. [The company has provided a statement about what is meant by the Christian ethos they propose for their planned school in Lambeth.]

The Christian educational charity, with its subsidiary charity the United Learning Trust, is now the largest single sponsor of city academies, having pledged more than £4.5 million to create academies in south London (Lambeth), Manchester and Northampton. This is just the start, according to Ewan Harper, who wants to sponsor five more of the publicly-funded but privately-run secondary schools. He believes this would "balance out" the charity's existing portfolio of eight fee-paying private schools, which include Surbiton high and Ashford boarding school in Kent.

If it can get funding - and it would like to hear from organisations or people with money to invest - it plans to increase the academies it controls to eight or 10 within the next few years and link them to its existing schools. Sponsors must raise up to 20 per cent of the cost of building a new school, or transforming an existing one. The rest, along with day-to-day costs, come from public funds, but sponsors run the academies.

[TES 17/5/02, 23/08/02, Daily Telegraph 4/10/02]


Updated 6 June 2003