Humanists UK employs the only campaigner working full-time to oppose the state funding of faith schools and challenge religious discrimination in admissions, employment, and the curriculum. That campaigner is Jay Harman.
He leads Humanists UK’s work to defend the rights of children, parents, carers, and teachers in the education system, by campaigning for: an end to the state funding of faith schools and the state’s endorsement of religious discrimination in school admissions; the eradication of close-minded and narrow religious education and of doctrinaire collective worship; and the introduction of comprehensive relationships and sex education in all schools, inclusive of LGBT pupils and accurate in its provision of information about safe sex and women’s reproductive rights.
To do this, he needs your support, and we need your help in order to continue to employ him through 2018.
Over a third of all state schools in England and Wales - more than 7,000 schools - are already run by religious organisations. And in Northern Ireland, the proportion is much, much higher. These are schools that are legally entitled to discriminate against children on the basis of beliefs they are too young to confidently hold for themselves, and which serve to divide communities rather than bring them together. Shockingly, shamefully, the UK Government seems committed not only to increasing the number of English faith schools, but to extending their powers to divide and discriminate too.
It is hard to remember a Government so intent on subjugating the better interests of children to the vested interests of religion.
We want schools in which children are free to form their own beliefs and find their own sense of meaning and purpose, free from religious influence. We want an education system that reflects our diversity and recognises its strength, celebrating shared human values rather than emphasising how we differ. And we want a society that reaps the benefits of children from different backgrounds learning with, from, and about one another in open and inclusive schools. That, sadly, is not currently the case.
This is why the work of our Faith Schools and Education Campaigner has never been more important than it is now.
Key successes this year include:
Successfully campaigning for compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to be introduced in all English schools. As a result, millions of children will now receive comprehensive information about healthy relationships, consent, safe sex, and gender and LGBT equality, allowing them to make positive, well-informed choices about their lives and relationships.
Forcing the Government to amend the misleading statistics it used to justify proposals for an end to limits on religious selection by free schools. Jay complained to the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) that the Government’s figures failed to accurately reflect the impact of the 50% cap on promoting integration in schools, and the UKSA subsequently ordered the Department for Education amend their consultation document.
Continuing to lead the campaign against illegal, unregistered religious schools, including by holding the first ever meeting between Ofsted’s Chief Inspector and former pupils of such schools, finally bringing an end to the plight of these children being ignored by key decision-makers across government.
Publishing a guide for non-religious parents and young people in England and Wales, providing valuable advice and support on how to navigate an education system increasingly subject to undue religious influence.
Working with members of the London Assembly to pass a motion condemning the Government’s proposals to increase the extent to which faith schools in England are allowed to religiously discriminate in their admission arrangements. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan publicly criticised the proposals in response to the motion.
Producing the research report Healthy, Happy, Safe which received blanket coverage across the media and revealed that PSHE and RSE in English schools is being ‘fatally neglected’ by school inspectors, discrediting the Government’s claim that making PSHE and RSE compulsory was unnecessary given Ofsted already picks up on inadequate teaching.
Challenging the exclusion of humanists from the local bodies responsible for setting religious education syllabuses, and, as part of a test case, forcing one local authority to accept the error of its decision to deny humanist membership.
Intervening at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to call out the Government’s record on children’s rights, particularly with regard to state-funded discrimination against and indoctrination of children as a result of their ongoing support for faith schools.
Further successes include:
Responding to all relevant official consultations, including a Department for Education consultation on religious discrimination in school admissions; a Women and Equalities Committee inquiry on the implications of Brexit, during which we called out widespread religious discrimination by faith schools in their employment practices; a local authority consultation on the existence of illegal, unregistered religious schools; a call for evidence from the Commission on Religious Education; and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England’s annual State of Children’s Rights 2017 consultation.
Supporting and advising hundreds of parents and carers whose children have been discriminated against in the education system on the grounds of their beliefs.
Generating significant media attention for Humanists UK campaigns work, including stories in every national newspaper, and coverage on national and local TV and radio stations throughout England and Wales.
Briefing MPs and peers, particularly members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG), on legislation related to ‘faith’ schools and education in Parliament, and organising debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords on relevant issues.
Sitting on the steering groups of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Sex Education Forum, and the Fair Admissions Campaign, and working alongside other organisations like the Religious Education Council and the Equality and Human Rights Commission on issues of shared concern.
With your donations, we’ll be able to employ our faith schools campaigner for another year and continue to fund his efforts to curb the rise of religious influence and privilege in the education system. Any money donated over and above our target will be used to further Humanists UK’s campaigns.
If you’re a UK taxpayer, please also indicate that Humanists UK can claim Gift Aid on your donation so that we can reclaim 25p tax from HMRC for every £1 you donate.