The British Humanist Association employs the only campaigner working full time in opposition to the state funding of ‘faith’ schools and against religious discrimination in admissions, employment and the curriculum. Since the beginning of this year, that campaigner has been Jay Harman. He leads the BHA’s efforts to eradicate ‘faith’ schools and religious selection, to rid the classroom of creationism in favour of evolution, to repeal the requirement for collective worship in schools, to ensure all children have access to high-quality sex and relationships education, and to make religious education objective and inclusive, particularly of the non-religious.
To do this, he needs your support, and we need your help in order to continue to employ him through 2016.
Over a third of all state schools in England and Wales – more than 7,000 schools – are religious schools, and that figure is rising fast. These schools can teach a narrow and indoctrinatory religious education syllabus, and they can turn children away if their parents are of the 'wrong' or no religion.
We believe this is wrong and we don’t believe the state should have a hand in funding it.
If schools are to produce tolerant and open-minded citizens, prepared for life in our increasingly diverse society, they must be inclusive of everyone, regardless of religion or belief. Rather than divide children, they should bring them together, and rather than instruct them in what they should or should not believe, they should encourage them to arrive at the answers themselves. Too many schools fail in this regard, and that’s why the work of our Faith Schools Campaigner is so important.
Key successes this year include:
· Publishing a landmark report revealing that hundreds of thousands of children may have been unlawfully denied a place at their chosen school as a result of a near-universal failure by ‘faith’ schools to comply with the School Admissions Code.
· Exposing the widespread practice of state-funded ‘faith’ schools demanding financial contributions from parents or pressuring them into making payments that are supposed to be voluntary.
· Seeing evolution taught as part of the primary national curriculum for the first time, following years of campaigning through our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign.
· Welcoming the Welsh Government’s plans to transform Religious Education in Wales into a new ‘Religion, Philosophy and Ethics’ syllabus, along very similar lines to thosewe recommended in our response to a consultation on the Welsh curriculum.
· Seeing the Office of the School Adjudicator rule once again that the London Oratory School’s faith-based admissions criteria were unlawful and must be removed. This came over two years after we made our initial objection about the school’s discriminatory and divisive admissions arrangements, and it’s not over yet. The Oratory has already stated that it intends to appeal.
· Revealing that despite a ban introduced last year, taxpayers’ money is still going to creationist and potentially extremist private nurseries through the Government’s early years funding programme.
· Exposing significant inconsistencies in the outcomes of Ofsted’s inspections of Charedi Jewish private schools, finding that the schools were far more likely to be rated favourably by a Charedi Jewish inspector than by a non-Charedi inspector. The two Charedi inspectors involved have since been dropped by Ofsted.
Further successes include:
· Responding to all relevant official consultations, including Department for Education consultations on the Religious Studies GCSE and A Level subject content; the role of independent school inspectorates, Academies, and Free Schools; Welsh Government consultations on reform of the school curriculum; the UK’s civil society submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; the House of Commons Education Select Committee call for evidence on the work of Ofsted; a further Ofsted consultation on a new inspection framework; a major review of the place of religion in the education system led by former Education Secretary Charles Clarke; and a consultation on the rights of children at school launched by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.
· Supporting hundreds of parents and carers whose children have been refused admission to their local school because of their beliefs, or whose beliefs have been marginalised.
· Generating significant media attention for the BHA’s campaigns work and policy areas, including segments on BBC News and BBC Breakfast, stories in every major national newspaper and coverage on national and local radio stations throughout England and Wales.
· Briefing MPs and peers, particularly members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG), on legislation and debates related to ‘faith’ schools and education in Parliament.
· Working with whistleblowers from a range of communities to uncover incidences of discrimination and inappropriate teaching or curriculum content in ‘faith’ schools.
· Ensuring that Humanism is included on local syllabuses and in schools by making sure we have a well-supported humanist representative on as many Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs) as possible throughout England and Wales.
· Working alongside other organisations like the Accord Coalition, Sex Education Forum and the Religious Education Council , as well as supporters of the Fair Admissions Campaign 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 important campaigning activities. Any money donated over and above our target will be used exclusively on furthering the BHA’s education campaigns.
If you’re a UK taxpayer, please also indicate that the BHA can claim Gift Aid on your donation so that we can reclaim 25p tax from HMRC for every £1 you donate.
The current political climate means that over the next five years we’ll have to work harder to achieve our policy goals and bring about the changes to the education system that are so badly needed. Your contributions are therefore more important than ever. Please donate today so we can continue to employ Jay over the next 12 months. Thank you.