Now the BHA are asking people to write to their MPs to encourage them to properly scrutinise and perhaps oppose the legislation. Their concerns are as follows:
1. If a state-maintained ‘faith school’ becomes a religious Academy, it will no longer be required to follow the national curriculum. This could lead to some schools teaching their own version of religious education, personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and to an increase in schools teaching creationism.As this is one of the coalition government's first major initiatives (and it was a key part of the Conservative manifesto), it appears keen to rush it through parliament. It is essential that the bill receives, at the very least, proper parliamentary scrutiny (as all bills should).
2. Unlike the current situation, schools will not have to undertake extensive consultation with their local authority, parents or local people before becoming an academy. A school could therefore become a religious academy without local people being fully able to give their views.
3. 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.
4 .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’.
5. 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.
6. Many maintained ‘faith schools’ are not currently permitted to discriminate on religious grounds against staff. The Bill contains no safeguards to ensure that such schools, when converting to Academies, cannot begin discriminating in their recruitment and employment policies.
7. A number of fee-paying independent religious schools have already registered their interest in becoming Academies, which would give them complete powers over the curriculum while unburdening them from the need to raise their own funds.
It's easy to write to your MP – just use the BHA's automated email system. Your email can make a difference, as MPs need to be aware that many people oppose this expansion in religious influence in the state education system.