Four in five reject Tory plan to lift faith admissions cap

Plans to lift the cap on faith-based admissions at over-subscribed free schools are opposed by four fifths of the population and more than two thirds of Catholics, a poll has revealed.

Just 20 per cent of respondents to a poll of more than 2,000 people carried out by Populus on behalf of the Accord Coalition said they agreed that new state-funded state schools should be allowed to select up to 100 per cent of their pupils on the basis of faith.

Under the current rules, over-subscribed free schools are not allowed to select more than 50 per cent of pupils based on their faith, but the Conservatives have included a pledge in their manifesto to lift the cap.

The Populus poll, which specifically asked respondents to choose between the 50 per cent cap or having no cap at all, also shows that there is little support for the policy among those of faiths most likely to be affected.

The Catholic faith has been singled out as the main benefactor of the policy because its rules have prevented new Catholic schools from opening in areas affected by the cap.

However, the poll shows that of the 149 Catholics who responded, 33 per cent wanted the cap lifted, while 67 per cent preferred the existing cap.

Jay Harman

There was also overwhelming support for the status quo among Anglicans (79 per cent), Hindus (81 per cent) and Sikhs (72 per cent), although in some cases the number of people from certain faiths responding to the survey was very small.

The Conservatives’ policy enjoyed majority support only among those who identified as Jewish, however, this was based on the responses of just 12 people.

The proposed lifting of the cap was initially mooted in the last government’s schools that work for everyone consultation, along with plans to increase selection and encourage private schools and universities to run academies.

However, although it has been welcomed by some faith schools groups, it has promoted criticism from humanist and secularist campaigners, who want to see the cap maintained.

Jay Harman, an education campaigner with the organisation Humanist UK, accuses the government of wanting to “massively increase the extent of religious discrimination and segregation in the education system”, and says it is “no surprise” that the proposal is unpopular.

“Religious and non-religious people alike recognise that both children and society are best served when people from a range of different backgrounds are brought together to learn with and from one another, and that is exactly what the 50 per cent cap sought to achieve.”

Rabbi Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord Coalition, said the cap had made schools “less segregated” and provided examples to “more divisive school”s about how they could operate differently.

“Scrapping the cap would send a terrible signal that it is okay for schools to become cultural silos and to ignore their wider impact on community cohesion.”

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  1. At a time when the government says it wants to improve relations between different communities in the UK, segregating young people on the basis of religion seems to be encouraging the opposite. The main reason for having faith based schools is to promote a view of the world that adherents believe is right, and better than the world view of other faiths. Those with a strong faith believe their God is better than your God: clearly they can’t all be correct. Constantly reinforcing the idea that other people have chosen the wrong God should not be the job of schools. Schools should be engaged in the business of encouraging students to make up their own minds on all issues, based on weighing the evidence. Schools should not be engaged in indoctrination, which hinders community cohesion, and worse.

    • Mark Watson

      I have to agree with the comments above. Ideally I’d prefer there not to be any faith-based admission procedures anywhere. That being said, I can’t ignore the generally positive contribution faith schools have had (particularly CofE primary schools in my experience). It’s a balancing act, but personally speaking I wouldn’t support allowing complete segregation.

  2. Mark Watson

    I realise SchoolsWeek feels it has a duty to try and whip-up anti-Tory feeling, and has no concept of impartiality when it comes to the fortnight leading up to an election, but surely even they must be feeling embarrassed about this.
    This poll was carried out “on behalf of the Accord Coalition”, a group whose primary aim is to do away with any form of selection on the grounds of religion.
    And guess what … the research sponsored by a special interest group came out with a result that supported exactly what the special interest group wants to promote.
    Just think for a moment what would happen if a survey sponsored by Academies Enterprise Trust and The Harris Federation were to be released saying that the population supported multi-academy trusts. There would, quite rightly, be huge suspicions cast on the survey.
    Of course we don’t really need to guess. YouGov did a survey which showed overwhelming public support for grammar schools. In all its articles on the subject SchoolsWeek simply doesn’t refer to it. Didn’t show the right result presumably.
    And yet SchoolsWeek has seen fit to not even mention who the Accord Coalition is or what they stand for.

    • The survey was done by Populus which is a member of the British Polling Council and obeys by its rules. The actual poll is here:
      If, however, you think that Populus has acted without integrity and provided the answer the Accord Coalition would like, then perhaps you could complain to the British Polling Council. Its address can be found by a quick internet search.

      • Mark Watson

        Are you being intentionally naive?
        It is a well accepted fact that research funded by an interested party is biased. The medical sector has a long history of this sort of “independent research” funded by drug companies. Why not have a look at some genuinely independent and expert analysis:
        The term “funding bias” specifically originated from this problem.
        I appreciate that you agree with the conclusions and therefore want to believe it’s a valid survey. If you’d read my first comment above you’d see I actually agree with what it says too. However that’s got nothing to do with its validity.

        • To repeat – if you think Populus is being unethical and producing the results the commissioner wants, complain to the British Polling Council.
          That said, there’s a difference between polls done by members of the British Polling Council (eg YouGov) and ones done by firms whose surveys are designed to produce marketing PR. The latter use panels who are allowed to take part in a number of surveys on a paid basis. The more surveys completed (up to the ceiling allowed) – the more money earned. The panellists’ motivation, then, is money not accuracy. Michael Gove made himself look silly when he used these types of surveys in a Mail article.
          PS I was replying to your comment about the polls only not whether you wanted to believe the outcome or not.

          • Mark Watson

            Hmmm, I see that in 2015 the director and founder of Populus criticised a poll by Survation (a fellow member of the British polling council) for producing a poll showing Ed Miliband had won a leadership debate.
            His comment: “Shock news just in: Mirror poll says Miliband won”.
            My point here is that SchoolsWeek are reporting on a poll that is sponsored by an organisation with a vested interest in the results, which just to happen to coincide with the sponsor’s viewpoint. Surely a responsible publication would have noted that the sponsor of the survey has a primary aim which is to do away with any form of selection on the grounds of religion. Then let people make up their own mind.
            If not, why not?

    • Mark – a YouGov poll done in September 2016 asked about support for grammars. The results were:
      34% support building more grammars (-4% from August 2016)
      20% would retain existing grammars but do not support setting up new ones (+3% from August)
      25% would support abolition of existing grammars (+2% from August)
      21% didn’t know (-1% from August)
      I’m not sure 34% is ‘overwhelming’ support for new grammars. 54% would support existing grammars but, again, this is hardly ‘overwhelming’.
      That said, 25% supporting abolition doesn’t suggest an overwhelming appetite for getting rid of selection where it exists. But 21% who don’t know is a large proportion who haven’t made up their minds.
      Interestingly (and perhaps unsurprisingly), support for selection varied when parents were asked to imagine their child had the potential to pass and then imagine their child didn’t.
      The summary with links to the data is here.

      • Mark Watson

        Once again you misrepresent.
        Did I refer to overwhelming support “for new grammars”?
        No, I referred to overwhelming support “for grammars”.
        Why do you feel the need to do this?
        Is it intentional, or do you genuinely not see what you are doing?

        • Perhaps you missed my sentence: ‘54% would support existing grammars but, again, this is hardly ‘overwhelming’.
          And did you not notice that I gave all the stats exactly as they appeared in the YouGov poll and provided a link so you could check?
          Hardly misrepresentation.

          • Mark Watson

            You said “I’m not sure 34% is ‘overwhelming’ support for new grammars.”
            Given that nobody had mentioned anything about support for new grammars why did you say this?

          • Mark Watson

            I appreciate that the word “overwhelming” is subjective. Let me put it into objective language using the figures you refer to:
            “Over twice as many people support grammar schools as those that want to abolish them”.
            Does that meet with your approval?

  3. Mark Poxon

    Consider the consequence of this change on my two non-faith granddaughters. If the cap is removed it will be possible to discriminate against my two granddaughters on the grounds of faith. Their choice of taxpayer-funded schools will be reduced. How can this be fair?