Commons Written Answer (16/1/03) on faith schools

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what mechanisms have been set up to ensure that schools set up by private companies and faith organisations (a) do not select their pupils, (b) follow the national curriculum, (c) teach science, including Darwin's theory of evolution and (d) protect the human rights of female students.

Mr. Miliband: The information is as follows:

(a) Selection
All new maintained schools are prohibited from selecting pupils by high academic ability by the School Standards and Framework Act (SSFA) 1998. The SSFA permits fair banding whereby schools select a proportion of pupils from each part of the full range of abilities. Academies and City Technology Colleges (CTCs) are prohibited from selecting by high academic ability by virtue of their funding agreements. Schools with a specialism in a prescribed subject are allowed to select up to 10 per cent. of pupils by aptitude in that subject. Schools with a religious character are allowed in their admission criteria to give preference to adherents of their faith or denomination.

(b) National curriculum
All maintained schools, including those set up by faith organisations, are required to teach the National Curriculum. Academies are required through their funding agreements broadly to follow the National Curriculum and the national system of assessing it. CTCs are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum with an emphasis on science and technology, and to teach the core and other foundation subjects of the National Curriculum. They are not required to follow the National Curriculum programmes of study, although most do so.

(c) Science curriculum
The National Curriculum requires all pupils to study the Science Curriculum at key stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 (ages 516). At key stage 4 pupils study the fossil record as evidence for evolution and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction. Schools do teach how scientific controversies can arise from the interpretation of empirical evidence and this is likely to include Darwin's theory of evolution. Pupils are encouraged to explore different views, theories and beliefs. The origins of the universe are also addressed in the teaching of religious education at key stage 3 (ages 1114).

(d) Human rights
The human rights of female students are protected by legislation. All maintained schools, including those set up by faith organisations, must comply with the Race Relations and Sex Discrimination Acts, and with the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act provides a right to education without discrimination on any grounds, including sex and religion. Its application extends to female pupils in Academies and CTCs.


Updated 23 May 2003