Last week we broke the story of how the new Education Secretary Damian Hinds had accepted thousands of pounds from the Catholic Church to fund an intern in his parliamentary office. We expressed our concern at the obvious conflict of interest this represents in the decision over whether or not to remove existing limits on religious selection by faith schools (the so-called 50% cap), a change principally lobbied for by the Catholic Church.
We must take action now to save the 50% cap and prevent an unprecedented expansion of segregated state faith schools in England.
Damian Hinds is a staunch supporter of faith schools and their freedom to religiously discriminate in admissions. He organised a debate in the House of Commons in 2014 calling for an end to the 50% cap, and has previously accepted financial support from the Catholic Church to pay for parliamentary interns.
Back then, Hinds was a backbench MP and his views were not shared by the Government of the day, which recognised the importance of the 50% cap in promoting both integration and the access of local families to their local state schools. But now, he is the Education Secretary and has the power to scrap the cap whenever he chooses.
Please contact Damian Hinds in his constituency, either in writing or by arranging to visit him at his weekly constituency surgery.
It is vital that his attention is drawn to the overwhelming body of evidence supporting the cap, and the overwhelming majority of the public - Catholics included - who wish to see schools open to all children, irrespective of their religion or belief.
You can use the facility below to email Damian Hinds directly. Your email will be more effective if it is written from a personal perspective, but here are some key facts and messages that you might want to include:
The 50% cap has been tremendously successful at boosting integration in religious free schools. For instance, at Christian free schools opened under the cap, 18% of pupils are from Asian backgrounds, while at Christian schools that are fully religiously selective, just 5% of pupils are from Asian backgrounds
Catholic schools may be diverse in terms of ethnic backgrounds within the Catholic religion, but they exclude children from Asian backgrounds more than any other type of school. This is not to mention that religious diversity is just as important as ethnic diversity, and can clearly not be achieved in schools that are fully religiously selective
67% of Catholics, and nearly 80% of Christians overall, believe that the cap should stay in place
Some people think that state schools should be equally accessible to all families, while others think some religious selection should be permitted. Either way, it should not be the case that parents are denied access to their local state schools entirely, simply on the basis of their religion or belief. At the very least the cap ensures that a balance is struck.