The Education Act 2011 received royal assent on 15 November 2011. When its section 62 comes into force it will introduce a new section 124AA into the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 in order to:
- preserve the rules on religious discrimination in favour of, or against, teachers in voluntary controlled or foundation schools when they become academies, but then
- allow for them to be allowed ‘by order’ to increase the level of religious discrimination.
In simple terms, voluntary controlled and foundation schools which have a designated religious character can discriminate by reference to faith in relation to 20% of their staff. Voluntary aided schools can do it in relation to 100%.
This new provision will ensure that, on coversion to an academy, the position in each of those schools is maintained.
However, it also allows for the Secretary of State to make an ‘order’ (under the new section 124AA(2) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998) in relation to an academy which was previously a voluntary controlled or foundation school with a religious character, which would then relax the rules to allow for the 100% discrimination level – i.e. as if it had formerly been a voluntary aided school.
The procedures for making such an order (public consultation etc) offer a much lower level of public involvement and scrutiny that do those involved where a voluntary controlled school wants to become a voluntary aided school.
The result is that a voluntary controlled or foundation school with a designation which wants to become ‘more religious’ can now do it in two easy steps (1) become an academy, then (2) ask the Secretary of State to make an ‘order’ where before they would have had to have gone through the greater rigours and public scrutiny of the statutory process of becoming a voluntary aided school.
Here is the ‘memorandum’ which explained all that to parliament.
Items in the news suggest that we can expect more faith academies in the future. Perhaps also, using these new powers, more which practice the highest level of religious discrimination.