Hinds meets with faith leaders to push academisation

The education secretary has met with representatives of all major religions today in a new push to encourage them to convert their schools into academies.

Damian Hinds met with representatives from the Church of England, Catholic Church, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu faiths, and Methodist Church today to lay out the “benefits” of becoming an academy.

It follows the disclosure last week that half of all pupils are now studying in an academy, despite mixed evidence as to whether sponsored academies improve pupil performance.

One third of schools in England are faith schools, and there are currently about 4,800 faith schools which have not yet converted to an academy, according to the DfE

Hinds said he “wants to see even more faith schools enjoying the benefits of academy conversion, with even more faith groups using the exciting opportunity the free schools route provides.

“In doing so, the leaders of these schools will ensure they are the ones making the right decisions for their pupils and for their communities, as I firmly believe they should be.”

The Catholic Education Service confirmed last month that many of its diocese are implementing plans to academise all its schools, in a bid to “safeguard their future”.

There has been some resistance to the plans from schools, such as in the Diocese of Westminster, and a blog from the National Education Union recently encouraged teachers to resist bishops’ plans to academise them.

Currently, a quarter of Catholic schools are academies (517) and the remaining 1,483 are voluntary-aided, which means they are maintained schools but the diocese has overall control of the governing board.

Reverend Stephen Terry, chair of the Accord Coalition, which campaigns against religious selection in schools, accused the DfE of “permitting and subsidising religious discrimination”, adding it “should be ensuring the school system better brings together and boosts understanding between people from different backgrounds.”

Update: Hinds has also written to the National Education Union following advice the union issued to Catholic school teachers – urging them to resist academy plans.

The union highlighted “risks” of academisation such as worse working conditions and doubts over funding.

But Hinds, in his letter, rebutted the claims – adding: “The NEU has an important role in providing members with balanced and accurate advice.”

He asked his letter to be shared with members who received the union’s initial email.