Row Erupts Over Non-Faith Quotas for Faith Schools

A leading Catholic education body has issued strong objection to attempts by the government to force faith schools to meet 'non-faith' quotas.

Published 10 September 2006  |  
|TOP|A row has broken out over renewed attempts by the government to force faith schools to meet ‘non-faith quotas’.

Lord Baker of Dorking will put forward in the House of Lords this October an amendment to the new Education Bill that will oblige faith schools to fill up 30 per cent of their school population with children from different faith or non-faith backgrounds.

The Catholic Education Service (CES) released a statement this week, however, in which it stated it would ‘robustly oppose’ the legislation, The Church of England Newspaper reported.

In the statement, Oona Stannard, Chief Executive and Director of the CES, also highlighted that Catholic schools already have a higher proportion of pupils from ethnic minority groups than the overall national trend.

|QUOTE|She added: “Where places are available, we welcome those of other denominations or faiths, or none. It is spurious to suggest that to take away a religious community’s right to firstly educate its own children and to instead give preference to others, for example, by introducing a 30 per cent non-faith quota for church schools, would aid social cohesion.

“Instead it would undermine and threaten existing harmonious relationships. It would risk setting up more resentment than it would resolve. I am confident that I speak for the Catholic community across England and Wales when I say that we will robustly oppose any steps to introduce quotas for ‘non-faith places’ in our schools.

“We will react similarly strongly against any other actions that inhibit our legitimate right to give fair preference to Catholics in cases of over subscription to Catholic schools.”

A spokesman for the Church of England said it would continue to encourage the governors of Church schools to set voluntary quotas for pupils of other faiths or no faith to make sure schools are diverse.

Back in July, the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Ian Cundy, described the amendment as “a sledgehammer that we do not need” in a speech in the House of Lords.

“It would be unfair if committed practising Christians living some distance from the school, perhaps in a poorer area, stood no chance of admission against children living near whose parents whatever their belief have been able to afford a house near the school.”

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