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Liberal Democrats vote to end faith-based selection by state-funded faith schools

March 22, 2017 5:54 PM

The Liberal Democrats have a new policy on state-funded faith schools - and it calls for the phasing out of faith-based selection over six years.

The policy was voted for by an overwhelming majority on Sunday 19th March 2017, at Federal Conference in York.

It largely brings together and updates existing policy, with two major changes being the focus of the debate:

  • whether faith schools should be able to select none, some or all of their children by their parents' religion;
  • whether faith schools should be able to give Religious Instruction (presenting the school's specific religion and its practices as fact), alongside Religious Education (teaching children about religion and belief in general).

Conference voted by a clear majority to phase out all religion-based selection.

Conference also voted clearly to allow faith schools to offer Religious instruction, as long as students are able to opt out and are provided with appropriate alternative activities.

The other features of the policy are:

  • Religious organisations should continue to be able to sponsor new state schools;
  • Religious Education should be part of the core national curriculum, taught by all state schools, should cover all the major religious and non-religious viewpoints, should be about people's beliefs and practice and their ethical and moral standpoints, and should be taught in a non-directive way;
  • Faith schools should not be able to discriminate on faith grounds in employing staff, except for staff that are mainly responsible for Religious Instruction;
  • The existing legal obligation for all state-funded schools to hold acts of collective worship should be scrapped.
  • Schools should still be allowed to hold acts of collective worship, as long as students are able to opt out and are provided with appropriate alternative activities.

HSLD has been campaigning long and hard for the party to reject religious discrimination in faith school admissions. The old policy, adopted in 2009, banned faith-based selection for new schools but allowed it to continue for existing schools, so the new policy represents major progress and shows how far the party has changed over the last 8 years.