Attitudes to new academy faith schools

The Academies Act 2010 is well underway, having received its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday 19 July, and with Education Select Committee days due this week.

A number of private and state religious schools have indicated interest in becoming state-funded academies, among about 1500 schools overall so far. For comparative purposes, the January 2009 Schools Census suggested there were 17,064 state primaries and 3,361 state secondaries in England.

The full list of schools indicating interest is available at the Department for Education website, and is updated intermittently. The list does not indicate directly which are schools ‘of a religious character’ – the British Humanist Association estimates that it is ‘over 300’.

The BHA has suggested that schools with a nominal faith tradition (such as Anglican primary schools without a strong faith ethos) will have no provision to change religious character to ‘none’ when becoming academies, even if the Governing Body were in favour.

However, non-faith schools will be able to adopt a religious character when becoming academies – perhaps under the influence of governors or potential sponsors – and this may lead to a proliferation of new faith schools. Its additional concern is that academies with a strong faith character will be freed from National Curriculum strictures, specifically with regard to the teaching of creationism and sex and reproduction.

The BHA commissioned a poll on public attitudes to the religious character of future academies, available here.

67% of respondents thought faith academies should be required to teach about other beliefs including non-religious beliefs. 23% did not, and 11% of respondents didn’t know.

The survey also asked,

‘If an academy were set up by a religious organisation, would you be very, quite, not very or not at all concerned that public money may be used to promote a particular religion or belief?’

35% were very concerned, 36% quite concerned, 16% not very concerned, 5% not at all concerned, and 7% didn’t know.

The survey was conducted 9-11 July 2010, by online interview, with 2000 respondents. The full polling report will be shortly available at

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