HC Deb 13 June 2003 vol 406 cc224-5W
Mr. Wray

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many religious schools there are; what Government funding is provided to these schools; what proposals he has to create state-funded religious schools; and what assessment he has made on the effects of religious segregation in state education. [115127]

Mr. Miliband

There are 6,938 state funded schools with a religious character in England.

Schools with a religious character, often called faith schools or religious schools, are funded by local education authorities for their recurrent costs on the same basis as other maintained schools of the same type, ie primary or secondary. Government grants, for example, Standards Fund grant, are also payable on the same basis as for other maintained schools of the same type.

Voluntary Aided (VA) schools, irrespective of whether or not they are faith schools, are eligible for capital funding by grant from my Department. VA schools are paid on a similar basis to other categories of schools, but the governing body must usually pay at least 10 per cent. of the costs of capital work.

Capital funding for schools not in the voluntary aided sector, irrespective of whether or not they are faith schools, is provided on the same basis for all categories of the same type of maintained schools, including the allocation of direct capital funding on the basis of a national formula, and access to local education authority formulaic funding in line with the priorities of the local asset management plan.

It is for promoters to put forward proposals to establish a school. Any new faith school must have the agreement of parents and the local community. Most decisions about whether or not a new faith school should open in England will be made locally—by the School Organisation Committee for the area, following local consultation, or by the Schools Adjudicator if the Committee cannot agree. In the case where a local education authority identifies a need for an additional secondary school, new procedures from 1 June will require them to hold a competition to run it and the Secretary of State will make the decision, after receiving comments from the School Organisation Committee.

At present there is no right of appeal against unanimous rejection by the School Organisation Committee: in future promoters who are not represented on the School Organisation Committee, including those from minority faiths, will be able to appeal to the Schools Adjudicator.

We have not made an assessment of the effects of religious segregation in state education. That is because we remain committed to ensuring that inclusiveness is at the heart of faith school policy, as recommended by the report Building Cohesive Communities produced by the interdepartmental Ministerial Group on Public Order and Community Cohesion in December 2001.