Breaking news: Johnson U-turn on faith schools

News is just coming in from Westminster that Education Secretary Alan Johnson has done a last-minute u-turn on his plan to insist that faith schools take 25% of their intake from other faiths or none.

A large-scale campaign organised by Catholic churches in marginal seats, together with a feeling among some Labour MPs that Catholics had been singled out by the legislation, led many to voice doubts. They were joined by secularist backbenchers who oppose faith schools but objected to Johnson’s proposed solution.

Between these two groups, Johnson faced a stormy meeting with Labour backbenchers this afternoon and it became clear that the strength of feeling was such that he risked losing the government’s majority altogether.

In the last hour he has written to all Labour MPs explaining that he no longer plans to move such an amendment to the Education and Inspection Bill. Instead, he has “exchanged letters” and reached an agreement with both the Catholic Church and Church of England that “up to 25% of places in new [faith] schools would be additional to the demand for faith places.”

The climbdown will represent a blow to Johnson’s leadership hopes, simultaneously antagonising the large contingent of Catholic Labour MPs as well as those who oppose faith schools altogether.

Last weekend Johnson told a Labour Students audience that he personally opposed both selection and faith schools but that abolishing them would be a vote loser. His flagship Bill will now be seen by many as failing on both issues.

Update: BBC now running this story.

11 Responses to Breaking news: Johnson U-turn on faith schools

  1. No doubt this is a mess. Until we have a proper debate within the party about this issue there should be NO new faith schools or faith academies. It’s no consolation to see your local school given away on the cheap to the catholic church or some other religious group but then told, don’t worry cos 25% of places in what was your local school will be reserved for you infidels – on a second class basis of course.

    What matters is who owns the school, how the school is run, how honestly it teaches controversial issues, community cohesion etc not some gimmick on uptake and….oh yeah…..do something about andew adonis!

  2. If we could do something about Andrew Adonis, I’m sure we would!

  3. Adele says:

    This is absolutely ridiculous. What are we, a political party or some faith based pressure group?

  4. I do hope Andew Adonis worked 110% to support his boss on this one?!

  5. sosialydd says:

    Not really suprising. It was a good example of the worst sort of compromise; pissing off both sides, rather than creating some form of positive consensus.

    In general issues like this should be avoided like the plague; that Johnson tried to deal with it in the foolish way that he did, speaks volumes about why he should not be allowed to get anywhere near becoming Deputy or (God forbid) Leader…

  6. Adele says:

    He has quite probably lost my vote over the silly u turn he made

  7. Benjamin says:

    It seems to me the govt is in a pickle over faith schools. The poicy is confused. What a mess.

  8. Annoymous says:

    Further more I was at the Labour students event last week where Johnson said the only way he could personally justify faith schools was with a quota system! What a joke.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Unless I am in error the original proposal was that local authorities would be given the power to decide whether faith schools must admit the 25%. There was no requirement for local authorities to do so. I suspect most would not. In any case, how many non-Muslims would want to send their children to a Muslim school? Of course, the background to all this is that Blair thinks faith schools a good thing, even those that peddle creationism.

  10. If I was an MP, I’d imagine I’d have been one of the ‘secularist backbenchers’ who opposed the compromise on the basis of its rank stupidity.

    I’d prefer it if we didn’t have faith schools at all but we do and many other Catholic ones particularly (possibly CofE ones in some areas) are over-subscribed with people who actually are Catholics.

    This law could potentially have created a situation where Catholics wanting to get into over-subscribed Catholic schools might have had to pretend they were Buddhists to get into those schools.

    Darkly hilarious as this might have been, it’s got no place in serious education policy.

  11. When saying I would’ve opposed the compromise, I mean the original compromise plan which has now rightly been ditched.

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