Family & Education

Government plan to lift entry cap on religious free schools

At present free schools can select only 50 per cent of pupils on basis of fatih


Etz Chaim Primary in Mill Hill: one of the new wave of Jewish free schools

The government has announced plans to lift the entry cap for religious free schools which currently allows them to reserve only half their places for members of their own faith.

A consultation has been launched today on removing the restriction on admissions that have applied to most new religious schools over the past decade.

If the plans went ahead, it could benefit the Strictly Orthodox Jewish sector where there is a growing demand for school places but where most schools are currently independent.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said on Wednesday, “As someone who attended a faith school as a child and having worked closely with our leading faith groups as Education Secretary, I’ve seen first-hand how their values and standards so often give young people a brilliant start in life.

“Faith groups run some of the best schools in the country, including in some of the most disadvantaged areas, and it’s absolutely right we support them to unleash that potential even further — including through the creation of the first ever faith academies for children with special educational needs.”

Under the current system, religious free schools can only prioritise 50 per cent of their places to members of their own faith. For the other half, they must use other criteria such as who lives closest to the school.

The free school option enabled a wave of new Jewish primaries to open over the past decade. Despite the entry restrictions, the vast majority of pupils who chose to apply to them are Jewish.

But the Mosaic Jewish Primary in South London was founded on the basis that it would only be viable if it could attract a significant number of pupils from other faiths.

Under the older voluntary-aided route, faith schools came under the umbrella of the local authority but were free to reserve all places to members of their own faith.

However, a proposal for a new Jewish voluntary-aided primary in Hertfordshire, where the Jewish population is growing, was rejected a few years ago.

Lifting the cap on free school places would be more attractive in particular to the Strictly Orthodox sector, which so far has not opened any free schools.

Six years ago the government toyed with a similar proposal to lift the entry cap but in the end decided not to proceed with it.

The cap on school places has been opposed by the Catholic Church which itself has not opened any free schools as a result.

The proposed removal on entry restrictions was welcomed by the chairman of the Catholic Education Service, the Right Reverend Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive