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Voluntary Schools: Faith Schools

Volume 467: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will make a statement on the future provision of voluntary aided faith primary schools. (162414)

The Government are committed to a diverse system of schools driven by, and responsive to, parental needs and aspirations. We do not have targets for numbers of new faith schools, but we remain committed to supporting the establishment of new schools by a range of providers, including faith organisations, where local consultation has shown that this is what parents and the community want, and where this greater diversity will help to raise standards.

School place planning is the statutory responsibility of each local authority. The Secretary of State plays no part in this process.

If an authority wishes to make any changes to voluntary school provision they must work with the local diocese, and any other relevant school providers in the area, and publish statutory proposals.

Where the need for a new school has been identified, faith providers may enter their own proposals for a new voluntary aided school in response to a competition held by the local authority. Providers may also publish their own proposals to establish a new voluntary aided school, with the Secretary of State's consent, outside of a competition.

Decisions on statutory proposals are normally made by local authorities, except for proposals for a new school where the local authority is the proposer or has a role in the trust of a proposed trust school. Other proposals may be decided by the schools adjudicator if the local authority fails to decide proposals within two months or following an appeal by the bodies for which there is explicit provision in the relevant legislation.

When taking decisions on statutory proposals the local authority and schools adjudicator must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. This guidance sets out a range of factors that must be considered including a requirement to consider the impact on the balance of denominational provision when deciding proposals to close a school with a religious character.