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New faith schools proposed in Redbridge with power to select 100pc of pupils based on religion

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:37 02 April 2019

East London Humanists chairman Paul Kaufman

East London Humanists chairman Paul Kaufman

Archant

An east London community group fears that proposals to create two new Redbridge faith schools, which have the power to select all their pupils on the basis of religion, could be divisive.

The Department for Education (DfE) unveiled 14 bids to create “voluntary aided (VA) schools” across the country last week – including two in Redbridge.

If approved, this would see charity the Al Noor Foundation and academy trust the Avanti Schools Trust create two new secondary schools based on the Muslim and Hindu faiths respectively.

Paul Kaufman, chairman of East London Humanists, expressed concerns about these school’s potential impact community cohesion in a statement released on Thursday (March 28).

“We strongly support freedom of religion and belief,” he said.

“However it is not the role of the state to fund religious schools or to endorse and promote a divisive school system.

“We celebrate the diversity of east London.

“The best way of ensuring understanding and harmony between our communities is for our children to live, learn and play together as they grow up.”

VA schools’ admissions and staff selection procedures can be determined entirely by their governing boards.

The stands in contrast to new state schools, where the government has set a cap which allows them to select only 50pc of pupils according to faith.

VAs operate from premises owned by either a church or charitable foundation, but receive all their revenue funding and up to 50pc of capital costs from cental government.

The Al Noor Foundation already runs a VA primary School, in Green Lane, Goodmayes.

It admits non-Muslim pupils, reserving 50pc of places for Muslim pupils at Reception and Year 1.

Chief executive Akhter Raouf told the Recorder: “Al-Noor’s schools will and do respect and actively promote tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.”

The Avanti Academies Trust also runs Avanti Court Primary, in Carlton Drive, Barkingside.

Its 2017/18 admissions policy highlights that it “is an inclusive Hindu faith-designated school which welcomes children of all faiths and none”.

The trust has been contacted comment.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “The voluntary aided capital scheme is not just for faith groups and its purpose is to promote choice and diversity in the system.

“It will enable faith and other groups to open new schools that will offer more choice for parents where there is demand and give more children – regardless of their background – access to the best possible education.

“All applicants for the scheme will need to demonstrate how they will promote community cohesion in order to be successful for funding.

“Applications to the scheme, which closed in February, are currently being considered.”

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