Success! Church takeover of secular school aborted

The National Secular Society has welcomed news that plans to merge a secular school into a Church of England school in London have been cancelled.

The National Secular Society can confirm that the proposed amalgamation between Charlotte Sharman Primary School, the only secular school in Southwark’s St George’s Ward, and St Jude’s Church of England Primary School will no longer go ahead.

The resulting school would have been a voluntary aided (VA) Church of England faith school, despite Charlotte Sharman being the larger and more popular of the two schools. The local diocese is understood to have demanded the new school adopt St Jude’s religious character.

The plans were cancelled in the face of overwhelming opposition from the NSS, parents, Charlotte Sharman school staff, and the local National Education Union. It is understood that opposition to the CofE ethos among Charlotte Sharman parents was a “key reason” for the decision to abort the amalgamation.

Overwhelming opposition to CofE ethos at Charlotte Sharman

In a letter to Southwark Council’s Deputy Leader Jasmine Ali this week, the NSS highlighted that a survey of parents at Charlotte Sharman found 80% of respondents opposed the move to become a Church of England school.

Additionally, 25 members of staff at Charlotte Sharman wrote to Southwark Council voicing their opposition to the amalgamation.

A petition set up by Southwark National Education Union to defend the secular ethos of Charlotte Sharman attracted over 900 signatures. It notes Charlotte Sharman “serves the diverse community” of Elephant and Castle and is “an inclusive, community school” without any emphasis on any particular religious belief.

A local consultation found 74% of respondents opposed the move, with 67 comments expressing concerns around the faith ethos of the new school.

However, the ‘full proposal’ document released following the consultation concealed this strength of feeling.

NSS: “No school merger should come at the expense of a school’s inclusive, secular ethos”

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: “We are relieved that the plans to effectively allow the Church of England to take over Charlotte Sharman Primary School have been cancelled.

“No school merger should come at the expense of a school’s inclusive, secular ethos – especially when parents clearly reject faith-based education.

“Now more than ever, with our population being more irreligious and diverse than ever before, we need to ensure that schools which equally welcome families and teachers of all faiths and none are protected from religious institutions which want to impose their own ethos.”

Media coverage:

South London News: Plans to merge school with half Muslim population into CofE primary school scrapped after opposition

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