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  • "Unfortunately the article does not cover the background to the BHA's involvement. RISC has been supported by Accord since the beginning which consists of a range of religious groups as well as the BHA and is not opposed to faith schools. It is opposed to admissions policies which discriminate on the basis of faith. In order to finance a legal challenge RISC needed the backing of a significant organisation but unfortunately Accord does not have the resources for this. One of it's members, the BHA offered to do so with a clear understanding that RISC is not anti faith schools. RISC press release along with the BHA's is on their website but the following quotes sum it up.

    BHA CEO Andrew Copson, “The BHA respects the fact that RISC is broadly-based and includes many people with religious convictions as well as the non-religious. We also recognise that the main driver for the campaign is not to oppose faith schools generally, but to ensure that new state-funded schools in Richmond do
    not discriminate against local children on the basis of their parents’ religion, or increase religious segregation. The BHA's own objects include the promotion of equality and non-discrimination, and of understanding between people holding religious and non–religious beliefs. The BHA is taking up this case because of its national implications, but we look forward to working with supporters of RISC, and with Accord, on the basis of this shared understanding.”

    RISC spokesman Jeremy Rodell, “RISC remains an inclusive campaign for inclusive schools. There is no change to our position on faith schools generally, which is to focus on whether they are genuinely inclusive. That is why we have not objected to the inclusive primary Free School proposed by the Church of England in Hampton. But the Voluntary Aided secondary school the Council and the Diocese propose is being set up to ensure that 100% of the pupils are children of Catholics, reducing to a minimum of 94% after 7 years. Others need not apply. That can’t be right.”

    Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, the Chair of the Accord Coalition which formally supports RISC, commented, “We welcome today's news that the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign and the BHA are to take legal action on this matter. Accord does not oppose “faith” schools, but has specific aims for legislative reform, including opposing all faith-based admissions. Any moves that will serve to limit religious discrimination must surely gain support from all those who value an inclusive statefunded education system.”

    People may or may not agree with RISC's ambition for inclusive schools but this legal challenge makes no change to their position on faith schools in principle. Those who try to infer it does are either misinformed or trying to mislead others."
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Humanists and Risc taking Richmond Council to court over Catholic school

First published in News by

Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (Risc) is taking Richmond Council to court over the long-running argument about plans for a voluntary aided Catholic secondary school.

In February, Risc wrote to the council saying it believed the way the proposals for the Clifden Road site were being handled was not compliant with the new Education Act.

Under the act, a council that thinks it needs a new school must first seek proposals for an academy or free school, where there is a limit of 50 per cent faith-based admissions.

Risc is now taking the issue to a judicial review with help from British Humanist Association (BHA), after the council refused to alter its plans for the new school in Twickenham – stating that it and the Diocese of Westminster were acting within the law.

The Diocese of Westminster said: “The proposed court case being brought by Risc and the British Humanist Association, a national organisation that campaigns against the existence of all schools with a religious character, seeks to use procedural arguments to prevent an entirely legitimate proposal to increase the educational choices available for parents and children in Richmond.”

Risc spokesman Jeremy Rodell said he believed the council and the Catholic Diocese were playing the system to secure the most exclusive type of Catholic secondary school possible.

He said: “It has become increasingly clear that the council has no intention of changing its plans, whatever the outcome of its recent consultation.

“Only a legal challenge will make any difference, but Risc does not have the resources to mount one. So we very much welcome the BHA’s involvement.”

BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said: “We have seen repeatedly how religious providers largely avoid competition when establishing state-funded schools, and instead make arrangements directly with local authorities to open schools without local people being offered any alternative.

“These approaches to local authorities have always been successful. If the practice is not challenged, we face a future of discriminatory state-funded religious schools being opened without the same rules applying to them as to inclusive schools.”

A council spokesman said: “The council has not yet taken decisions in respect of the diocese proposal, or in respect of the use of the site in Twickenham and, therefore, any judicial review challenge would be premature.”

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