All Faith Schools May Have to Admit 25pc Non-Believers

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Byline: LAURA CLARK

ALL faith schools could be forced to admit pupils from other religions, Alan Johnson hinted yesterday.

The Education Secretary has already announced plans to make new faith schools offer a quarter of places to non-believers.

Now he has signalled that this quota system could be extended to existing schools.

Faith groups would bitterly oppose any such move.

The Church of England said quotas were 'unnecessary' while the Roman Catholic Church said it would ' vehemently oppose' them.

Mr Johnson revealed this week that ministers want to let local councils order faith schools to set aside 25 per cent of their places to those outside their faith.

In a keynote speech yesterday, he said: 'This important principle is a start.' He revealed that a new code of admissions could be used to 'encourage' faith schools to do more to break down community divisions.

Schools that take in very few pupils from outside their faith could be twinned with nonfaith schools.

Another idea might be to include a teacher exchange scheme to expose children to the 'ethos and approach of different faiths'.

But Mr Johnson yesterday appeared to raise the prospect of compelling schools to change their admissions rules if these measures failed.

He told delegates to the National Children and Adult Services Conference that: 'Young minds are free from prejudice and discrimination, so schools are in a unique position to prevent social division.

'Schools should cross ethnic and religious boundaries, and certainly not increase them, or exacerbate difficulties in sensitive areas.

'That's why I want all new faith schools to admit 25 per cent of pupils from a non-faith background, not on the basis of quotas but where there is local demand. This important principle is a start. Through the consultation on the new admissions code, we should explore whether there is more we can do by encouraging existing faith schools to further promote community cohesion, as I know they themselves are keen to do. …