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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
New faith schools 'face shake-up'
C of E school classroom
The impact of faith schools has been debated in parliament
All new religious schools could have to offer at least 25% of their classroom places to "non-believing" children, leaked papers seen by the BBC suggest.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson believes the move may reduce religious and racial tension, the documents say.

His plans stipulate that where there is "strong local opposition" to the policy, councils would need government consent before implementing the quota.

A Conservative Party spokesman said they welcomed the proposals.

"There is a case for giving local authorities a new discretionary power to require new faith schools to admit up to 25% of pupils from outside their faith group as this would enable them to take account of local circumstances," he said.

"We look forward to the government's proposals."

It is believed that fewer than 100 schools a year will be affected.

The Education and Inspection Bill returns to the House of Lords on Tuesday and ministers will put forward amendments then.

Debate

Critics of faith schools have suggested that they promote more segregated communities.

The Church of England has said it will set aside a quarter of places at its new schools for people outside the faith.

The Catholic Church also said it would be more open about the proportion of non-faith groups within its schools.

Neither the Association of Muslim Schools, nor the United Synagogue were able to comment.

Faith schools have been the subject of a great deal of debate in the Lords
Alan Johnson
Education Secretary

Under the powers, local authorities would have to ensure new faith schools admit at least 25% of "non-believers" where they deem it reasonable.

Where local authorities choose not to invoke these powers, there will be a facility to challenge such decisions by appealing to the secretary of state, a source told the BBC.

In a leaked letter, Mr Johnson said: "Faith schools have been the subject of a great deal of debate in the Lords so far, and concern about their impact unites peers from across the House."

In June, former Education Secretary Lord Baker said that faith schools should admit at least one-third of pupils from other faiths as a condition of receiving state funding.

However, the proposed measure is expected to be supported by the Conservative Party.




SEE ALSO
Muslim students 'more tolerant'
11 Oct 06 |  Lancashire
Muslim schools into state sector
08 Oct 06 |  Politics Show
Church schools in 'inclusive' vow
03 Oct 06 |  Education

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