THE new Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, is likely to lift the cap on the proportion of school places that can be allocated on the basis of faith, it was speculated this week.
Plans to remove the cap — which limits the places allocated on the basis of faith to half — were set out in a Green Paper in 2016 (News, 16 September). The Conservative manifesto promised to “replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools, instead requiring new faith schools to prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school”.
But the policy has failed to materialise. In July, the Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, told The Sunday Times that “admission 100 per cent on faith leads to increased levels of segregation within communities” (News, 28 July).
Speculation that it may be back on the cards has been fuelled by the appointment of Mr Hinds, who attended an RC grammar school, St Ambrose, in Cheshire. He has spoken in favour of removing the cap. The Mail on Sunday reported this week that Mr Hinds was “expected to scrap the rule which forces new Catholic schools to accept 50 per cent non-Catholic pupils”, although no formal announcement has been made by the Department for Education.
On Tuesday, the Assistant General Secretary to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Greg Pope, rejected a suggestion by Humanists UK that Mr Hinds was subject to “deeply inappropriate lobbying” in accepting a £5000 donation from the RC Church to fund an intern in his Commons office in 2014. The internship scheme was “to benefit bright young Catholics who have a possible vocation to work in public life”, Mr Pope said.
The Church of England’s chief education officer, Nigel Genders, has repeatedly said that neither the removal nor the retention of the faith cap will impact on the C of E’s existing or new schools (News, 28 July).
“New Church of England schools are developed to meet local demand for school places and serve the community in which they are located,” he said on Tuesday. “Therefore, the removal or retention of a 50-per-cent faith cap does not impact on the way we will seek to develop Church of England schools that are deeply Christian, serving the common good.”