The Academies Bill
The Academies Bill, which will radically reshape the schools system, has nearly completed its passage through Parliament. MPs have had little time to scrutinise the Bill in detail, but the Government intends for it to become law before Parliamentary recess on 27th July.
The Academies Bill allows existing state-maintained schools to become Academies – state-funded but independent schools. The Bill will also be used to establish ‘free schools’, new Academies established by a range of groups including religious organisations. For the first time, primary schools will also be able to apply to become Academies in their own right.
This Bill is a massive de-regulation of public education which could significantly increase the power and influence of religious groups in our schools. It risks permanently entrenching religious segregation in our education system through irreversible changes which will permit wide discrimination in admissions and employment. By “freeing” religious Academies from the national curriculum the Bill also risks exposing children to extreme religious views, including creationism.
There are several issues with the Bill of particular concern to humanists, but the BHA is focusing on the following:
1.The Bill forces a ‘faith school’ automatically to become an independent school with that religious character if they become an Academy. This removes the possibility for state-funded faith schools to choose to become inclusive Academies.
2.As it stands it includes no provision to prevent inclusive community schools adopting a religious character when converting to Academy status. This means more ‘faith schools’.
3.The Government has made clear that it does not intend to prevent religious academies from discriminating in their admissions, giving preference to the children of parents with particular beliefs. As the number of religious academies increases, there will be fewer and fewer places for children whose parents are of the ‘wrong’ or no religion.
BHA distinguished supportter and member of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group Dr Julian Huppert MP has tabled amendments to the Bill which would address these issues.
Use the links on the left to email your MP today and urge them to support these amendments in the Commons.