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Newsletter – August 2017

Thank you so much for your continued support over the years. We are pleased to announce Labour Humanists membership is growing steadily, and we have over 3,000 followers on Twitter. As we continue to expand our support base in influence within the party, we’re happy to launch the first of our new monthly newsletters covering Humanist and progressive issues at home, in the party, and abroad. As ever, we are always keen to hear from our members, so feel free to contact us with any suggestions you’d like to add.


At Home …

DfE research shows mixed schools perform better than segregated counterparts

A study conducted by the Department for Education into schooling in Oldham, one of the areas that saw race riots in 2001, has demonstrated that pupils at mixed schools perform better than their counterparts at schools that select pupils by their faith. According to the report, pupils in mixed schools have a better view of other races and religions, as well as a more positive outlook in general, that is beneficial to intergroup relations. Campaigning against faith schools has always been a key issue for Labour Humanists, and we believe that Tory plans to expand them pose a grave threat to social cohesion and tolerance as well as to the quality of education for pupils in these schools.


Labour Shadow Minister resigns over disputed article on “political correctness” in child sexual exploitation enquiry

Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham, resigned as Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities following an article she wrote for The Sun where she claimed “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”, and that authorities are afraid of tackling child sexual exploitation rings through a fear of being called racist. Champion suggested that we should be questioning whether there are “cultural issues” around the sexual exploitation of women and girls, and “this isn’t racist, this is child protection”. However, she soon distanced herself from the published article by accusing the paper’s editors of altering the opening paragraphs thus losing the “nuance” of her argument. The Sun denied this. Nevertheless, fellow Labour MP Naz Shah and many other MPs called on Jeremy Corbyn to sack Champion. Instead Champion resigned, stating “I apologise for the offence caused by the extremely poor choice of words in The Sun … I am concerned that my continued position in the shadow cabinet would distract from the crucial issues around child protection which I have campaigned on my entire political career”.

Do you think Champion was right to resign? Let us know in the comments section!


Modern slavery “in every UK town and city”

The BBC reports the National Crime Agency has stated that modern slavery is “far more prevalent than previously thought”, and previous estimates of 10,000–13,000 cases are just “the tip of the iceberg”. The most common form of modern slavery is still sexual exploitation, but evidence of the practice is found across sectors, from food processing, to construction, to care workers. Indeed, the NCA estimates that “ordinary people unwittingly come into contact with victims every day”.


CCTV to become compulsory in English abattoirs

While welcoming this move, Labour Humanists urge the government to also look at the welfare of animals condemned to ritual slaughter. Humanists UK have shown that approximately 650,000 animals a week are slaughtered without being stunned beforehand. We believe that the right of animals to a humane as possible slaughter takes precedence over religious teachings. At the very least, meat packaging should clearly indicate whether the animal in question was killed without being pre-stunned.



Abroad …


Needless to say, we were all horrified by the far-right violence in Charlottesville and the death of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer on 19th August. The resurgence of morally and intellectually bankrupt notions such as scientific racism and anti-Semitism among a section of the American Right is of deep concern, especially given the easy transmission of such propaganda through social media. It is very disappointing, to say the least, that President Trump stopped short of explicitly condemning the far-right and their actions, and that Nigel Farage defended Trump’s weak Tweets and alarming statements.



The Independent reports on women in Afghanistan launching the #WhereIsMyName campaign in protest at the Afghan custom of erasing women’s names. According to this patriarchal custom, women’s forenames do not appear on their birth certificate, wedding invitations or even gravestones. Instead, they are written as the mother/sister/daughter of Mr X. A member of the campaign, Batool Mohammadi, recounts: “I went to a private bank office to fill up the form, when the manager asked my mother’s name, I paused for few seconds, because I had actually forgotten my mother’s name. Nobody in all these years asked or called her by her name.”


“Don’t mess with my outfit”

Turkish women took to the streets to protest against increasing physical and verbal threats and violence perpetrated against them for their choice of clothing. Bearing signs “don’t mess with my outfit” as well as carrying denim shorts on hangers, the women were railing against conservative attitudes towards dress codes, which they say have been reinforced by President Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted party and policies.


Party news …

CAC Elections

There is still time for members to vote in the Conference Arrangements Committee elections. Labour Humanists is not a factional grouping, and we welcome supporters from across the party in our efforts to increase the voice of humanism in Labour policy. As such, we are not backing a slate in the elections. However, we do ask supporters to consider voting for Michael Cashman, who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) and an associate of the National Secular Society.


Chika Amadi

Labour Humanists are pleased to see the party has taken quick action in suspending Labour councillor Chika Amadi after her unacceptable comments on homosexuality. Amadi’s comments are deeply hurtful to LGBT people in and outside the party, and further comments from Amadi supporting FGM have since surfaced. We welcome the suspension, and urge the party to ensure stringent vetting of candidates whose views do not align with progressive values and could bring the party into disrepute.


Yours faithfully,

Samuel Fawcett

Social Media and Website Editor


Blog News

Support BHA’s faith schools & education campaigns

The British Humanist Association (BHA) employs the country’s only dedicated campaigner against the discriminatory and divisive faith schools system. The BHA is asking for donations so they can continue to have this post. In just the past year, the successes of the Faith Schools and Education Campaigner include:

  • Publishing a landmark report revealing that thousands of children may have been unlawfully denied a place at their chosen school as a result of a near-universal failure by ‘faith’ schools to comply with the School Admissions Code.
  • Exposing the widespread practice of state-funded ‘faith’ schools demanding financial contributions from parents or pressuring them into making payments that are supposed to be voluntary.
  • Seeing evolution taught as part of the primary national curriculum for the first time, following years of campaigning through our ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign.
  • Welcoming the Welsh Government’s plans to transform Religious Education in Wales into a new ‘Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics’ syllabus, along very similar lines to those we recommended in our response to a consultation on the Welsh curriculum.
  • Seeing the Office of the Schools Adjudicator rule once again that the London Oratory School’s faith-based admissions criteria were unlawful and must be removed. This came over two years after we made our initial objection about the school’s discriminatory and divisive admissions arrangements. And it’s not over yet. The Oratory has already stated that it intends to appeal.
  • Securing recommendations in the UK Civil Society report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the inclusion of non-religious worldviews in RE, compulsory sex education in all schools, and a reduction in the degree to which schools can religiously select. We were part of the education working group responsible for steering the report.
  • Successfully campaigning on a change to regulations requiring school inspectors to be independent not only from the school they’re inspecting, but also from any organisation representing the school. This led to the closure of the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, some of whose inspectors were revealed to have extensive links to the ‘faith’ schools they were inspecting, and also to hold very conservative religious views in relation to homosexuality and women.
  • Revealing that despite a ban introduced last year, taxpayers’ money is still going to creationist and potentially extremist private nurseries through the Government’s early years funding programme.
  • Exposing significant inconsistencies in the outcomes of Ofsted’s inspections of Charedi Jewish private schools, finding that the schools were far more likely to be rated favourably by a Charedi Jewish inspector than by a non-Charedi inspector. The two Charedi inspectors involved have since been dropped by Ofsted.
  • Working alongside the Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats to pass a policy motion at the Lib Dem Conference backing an end to collective worship and employment discrimination in faith schools.

Please do consider helping the BHA raise money to support this vital post.

Blog News

Fight back against faith schools

The British Humanist Association (BHA) employs the only dedicated campaigner in the country working on the issue of faith schools. To keep this important position going, the BHA is asking for donations. By giving even a small amount you would be helping to ensure that the BHA is able to keep making significant achievements in reforming schools and education for the better. Please donate here.

As well as campaigning for the reform of faith schools, the post works on evolution and creationism, religious education, PSHE and sex and relationships education, and collective worship. Visit the BHA’s Facebook page to see a gallery of information about the work of the faith schools campaigner.




Ofsted should be allowed to inspect religious teaching in state faith schools

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary has set out his concerns that ‘Ofsted is not allowed to inspect religious teaching in faith schools‘. The issue of faith schools essentially inspecting themselves when it comes to the content of their religious teaching was discussed when Labour Humanists met with Tristram Hunt MP earlier this year, and this public statement from Dr Hunt is very welcome. What we would like to see is a firm policy proposal from Labour to ensure that religious teaching in faith schools is opened up to the same scrutiny and inspection as all other state schools.

You can listen to the full discussion between Dr Hunt and David Aaronovitch, which was a Progress event on October 28. They discuss various issues relating to faith schools from 21 – 28 minutes.

What’s the issue with RE in faith schools?

There are a number of concerns about what and how RE is taught in state-funded faith schools. The British Humanist Association’s (BHA) education campaigner Richy Thompson blog ‘10 facts about faith schools‘ sets these out. These include:

  • Most don’t have to teach about other religions in Religious Education
  • When they do teach about other religions, they often don’t teach about them properly
  • They don’t have to teach about non-religious people and beliefs
  • Their RE teaching isn’t even inspected by Ofsted. The religious bodies inspect it themselves
  • ‘Faith’ schools do not have to provide much in the way of sex education and can choose to only teach abstinence until marriage

Help the BHA keep campaigning for reform of faith schools.

Blog News

Fight back against faith schools

Please show your support for inclusive schools by donating whatever you can in support of the British Humanist Association’s (BHA) Faith Schools Campaigner. Each year the BHA, which is a charity reliant on donations and membership fees, fundraises to retain its fantastic Faith Schools Campaigner, who is the only campaigner working full time in opposition to the state funding of faith schools and against religious discrimination in admissions, employment and the curriculum.

Richy Thompson works tirelessly to end the unfair discrimination embedded in the state-funded faith schools system and has helped to make the issue of faith schools a matter of national level debate, as well as providing direct support and advice to parents, teachers, school governors and pupils in local areas. On top of all this, Richy also leads the BHA’s policy work on evolution and creationism, religious education, PSHE and sex and relationships education and collective worship – with a number of notable successes in the past few years.

There is still so much more to be done to have a truly fair, equal and high quality school and education system with no religious discrimination or prejudice. Please donate through the special JustGiving site.

Read more about the BHA’s work on schools and education.

Blog Events News

Labour Humanists’ Chair makes speech to party conference

Very pleased to see Labour’s commitment to education, to a stronger school admissions code, to supporting teachers, to compulsory SRE in every state school.

My constituency party Chipping Barnet supports inclusive schools and the best teachers free to teach in any state school.

That is why Labour needs to go further and address the issue of state-funded faith schools. A third of state schools have a religious character and that number is growing through the Tories’ largely unregulated and growing academies and free schools programme.

Many state funded faith schools can and do select pupils on the basis of the religion of their parents. Labour should strengthen its position to make clear that whether someone believes in god or not, or which god they believe in, should have no bearing on whether their child can access a high quality education at their local school.

Those schools can and do put religious requirements on teaching jobs too. Allowing state funded schools to hire, fire, or set a ceiling on promotion for, suitably qualified teachers on religious grounds, must be at odds to Labour’s commitments to equality and to improving teacher quality.

Where I live, all new primary schools just opened or proposed are religious ones- Jewish and Christian. In 5 years time my daughter will be starting school. As a non-religious person who absolutely shares Labour values of equality and for inclusive high quality education, in 5 years time where should I send my daughter, when my local schools are faith schools, not inclusive, and have religious indoctrination as part of the ethos and curriculum?

Conference, let there be no doubt – our education system is only safe with Labour. Only Labour truly supports teachers. Only Labour fights for every young person to reach their educational potential regardless of their background. That is why I am a member.

And that is why Labour should not ignore or play down the threat to our values of equality and inclusion.
Labour must continue to fight for the right to every young person to have a high quality education at their local school
And we should have a national review of religion in education, ensuring the teaching of non-religious world views such as Humanism equally alongside religious perspectives.
We must look to strengthen out policy and rule out any state funded school from discriminating, selecting and segregating along religious grounds.


Meeting with Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary

Earlier this week, represented by Tom Copley AM, we met with Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt. We were pleased to attend that meeting alongside the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Accord Coalition, to speak about our shared vision for a high quality and inclusive education and schools system. We had a productive meeting and covered issues from religiously selective admissions in faith schools to the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum about religion and beliefs – including Humanism – in all state-funded schools. We look forward to working with the Labour education team as it sets out what the next Labour Government’s approach to education will be.

Read our submission to Labour on faith schools.


Labour Humanists & BHA respond to Labour on improving teacher quality

‘Faith-based discrimination in employment is unfair on teachers and pupils, unnecessary, and in all likelihood usually unlawful’. That is the key message Labour Humanists and the British Humanist Association (BHA) have put across in our joint submission to Labour’s call for evidence on improving teacher quality.

We make comments both on qualified teacher status and the issue of reserving teaching posts in state-funded schools for suitably religious teachers.

All types of faith schools (around a third of state-funded schools), from those under Local Authority control to Academies and Free Schools, have the ability to place religious requirements on teaching positions. In reality, some religious authorities think that they have the right to know the intimate details of teachers’ private lives and to use that information to determine whether they can have a job or get a promotion. Or at worst and regardless of how well qualified a teacher is, use personal information to discipline and dismiss on the grounds that her conduct outside of work is ‘incompatible with the precepts’ of the school’s religion.

We support Labour’s moves to improving teacher quality but if the Party is serious about the value quality teaching it must address the issue of discrimination against teachers in state-funded faith schools.

Read our submission.

Join us!

Blog News

Now is the time for Labour properly to support teachers

If Labour is serious about supporting teachers and improving quality in classrooms, it must have a change in policy to say that no state-funded school is allowed to place a religious requirement on any teaching or non-teaching job. That is the key message set out in an article published on LabourList, Labour’s biggest independent grassroots e-network.

All types of faith schools (around a third of state-funded schools), from those under Local Authority control to Academies and Free Schools, have the ability to place religious requirements on teaching positions. This means in practice that many state schools are able to hire, fire and promote (or refuse to promote) teachers simply on the basis of their personal beliefs and behaviour outside of school, no matter how well qualified they are. We think this is totally wrong.

Labour’s values should be firmly in favour of equality and inclusion. We are working within the Party and seeking to influence policy at this crucial time to ensure that under the next Labour Government, no teacher’s job prospects could be determined by whether she believes in god or not.

Join us today and help to get our position heard.


Groundbreaking research shows extent of religious discrimination in state schools

Research published today by the Fair Admissions Campaign has shown the extent to which state-funded faith schools discriminate in their admissions on religious grounds and its effect on social and ethnic inclusiveness. Labour Humanists is affiliated to the British Humanist Association (BHA) and supports the Fair Admissions Campaign.

The research has been launched in map form and, for the first time, scores how religiously selective, socio-economically inclusive and ethnically inclusive every mainstream state secondary school in England is. Users are able to see profiles for individual schools, compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different denominations, dioceses and local authorities are. It can be viewed at

The research finds that there is a clear correlation between religious selection and socio-economic segregation; one of the key findings is that schools with no religious character admit 11% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas, while state schools with a Christian, Jewish or Muslim character admit far fewer eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas. See notes for more key findings.

Labour Humanists’ Chair Naomi Phillips commented, ‘Religious leaders often claim that faith schools – paid for by the state – are inclusive and serve the local community. This latest research which maps every state secondary school in England shows that is often not the case. Labour principles mean that whichever family you are born into, whatever your background, you have the right to high-quality and inclusive education. Support for the present system of state-funded faith schools clearly goes against those principles, and we urge Labour to change its policy to guarantee that children will not be turned away from their local school on the basis of their parents’ beliefs.

‘Even if religious selection in school admissions was not a proxy for class discrimination – which it demonstrably is – Labour Humanists would still oppose it because we do not believe any state school should refuse children on the basis of whether their parents believe in a god or not.’


It is our firm belief that state-funded faith schools (about a third of all schools) should be inclusive: we believe that is a Labour value too. We believe that discrimination in admissions by state-funded faith schools is unnecessary, unjust, disastrous for social cohesion, and completely against Labour values. We therefore ask for a commitment to inclusivity and opposing discrimination in admissions by faith schools to be included in Labour’s manifesto for the 2015 general election.

Fair Admissions Campaign full press release:

Groundbreaking new research maps the segregating impact of faith school admissions

The Fair Admissions Campaign has today published groundbreaking research into the extent of religious selection in state schools and its effect on social and ethnic inclusiveness. Launched in map form, for the first time it scores how religiously selective, socio-economically inclusive and ethnically inclusive every mainstream state secondary school in England is. Users are able to see profiles for individual schools, compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different denominations, dioceses and local authorities are. It is hoped that the tool will prove useful to parents, schools, and individuals concerned about segregation in school admissions. It can be viewed at The research combines data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories. The map details the proportion of pupils each school is allowed to religiously select in its oversubscription criteria; how many pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals by comparison with its local area; and how many speak English as an additional language. Key findings include:

  • Comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 11% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas. Comprehensive Church of England secondaries admit 10% fewer; Roman Catholic secondaries 24% fewer; Jewish secondaries 61% fewer; and Muslim secondaries 25% fewer.
  • There is a clear correlation between religious selection and socio-economic segregation: Church of England comprehensives that don’t select on faith admit 4% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, while those whose admissions criteria allow full selection admit 31% fewer.
  • 16% of schools select by religion but they are vastly overrepresented in the 100 worst offenders on free school meal eligibility and English as an additional language. They make up 46 of the worst 100 schools (and 67 out of 100 if we exclude grammar schools) on FSM eligibility and 50 of the worst 100 (55 if we exclude grammar schools) on EAL.
  • The most segregated local authority as a result of religious selection is Hammersmith and Fulham. While 15% of pupils nationally are eligible for free school meals, the segregation between the religiously selective schools and other schools is almost double that (27 percentage points).
  • The map represents the first time any data has ever been published on the degree of religious selection by faith schools. We estimate that 16% of places at state schools (or 1.2 million) are subject to religious selection criteria. This compares with 5% of secondary places in grammar schools and 7% of all places in independent schools.
  • More in depth findings can be found in our briefing.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said, ‘This new research exposes the hypocrisy of those who claim religiously selective schools serve the community at large. It reveals that they not only further segregate children on religious and ethnic grounds, but also are skewed towards serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived. Crucially, the research also shows that the more a school is permitted to select children by faith, the greater the extent to which it is likely to socio-economically segregate. The data poses some very awkward questions for the state funded faith school sector, especially as many people of faith are appalled that schools that should focus on the poor have become so elitist.’

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘Today’s findings make clear like never before the devastating effects that faith-based admissions have in segregating communities along socio-economic and ethnic lines. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently commented that Church of England schools are moving away from religious selection. We are yet to see if this is true, but at the same time believe it cannot come true soon enough. In any case, the scale of the problem demands not voluntary effort by religious groups but legislation – government should act now to make these divisive effects impossible by removing the possibility of religious selection in state-funded schools.’

Professor Ted Cantle CBE chaired The Cantle Report into the 2001 race riots, and founded the Institute of Community Cohesion. Professor Cantle commented, ‘This research clearly demonstrates the increasing balkanisation of our school system, with children growing up in separate communities with little chance of learning about others. It shows that education has done nothing to break down the “parallel lives” I described in 2001, rather they have been reinforced.’

Jeremy Rodell is Chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, who last year took a judicial review against two proposed Catholic schools in the hope of establishing more inclusive admissions policies. Mr Rodell commented, ‘The evidence presented by this new data is very clear. We already knew that it is unfair for state-funded schools to discriminate on the basis of religion. But we can now see that the unfairness is compounded because it also disadvantages children who are already disadvantaged. Perversely, those who are the strongest advocates of choice in schooling are apparently happy to defend admissions policies that give some parents far more choice than others simply because of their religious practices, genuine or otherwise. Surely no government, of any political complexion, should allow this to continue.’

Notes For further comment please contact Accord Coalition Chair Jonathan Romain on 07770 722 893, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 24 8596 or email For further information about the map please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072. The map can be viewed at and a more in depth briefing at Note that unfortunately the map doesn’t work on mobile devices due to the fact that they can only handle about 100 pins (there are over 3,300).

Figures comparing different religious denominations and Dioceses can be seen on the ‘Overall averages’ tab of the map. For a fuller methodology (including how schools’ local area figures are calculated), details of the sources used, responses to possible criticism and answers to other questions please see the ‘FAQs’ tab.

The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.

Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.