BHA: Barking & Dagenham Council reverses unlawful decision to create faith school

The Cabinet of Barking and Dagenham Council voted yesterday to rescind their recent decision to incorporate a community school into a Voluntary Aided Church of England school against the wishes of both schools, a decision that the British Humanist Association (BHA) and others had claimed was unlawful. The BHA has welcomed the decision, having been in the early stages of working with local residents to take legal action against the merger.

On 11 July, the Council Cabinet voted in favour of Village Infants School merging with William Ford Church of England (Voluntary Aided) Junior School, in spite of both schools’ staff and governing bodies being against the plans. In taking the decision, the Cabinet failed to consider the fact that two days earlier, William Ford had changed its position from in favour of the merger to against.

Following the decision, the BHA was approached by members of the community on how to take a legal case to challenge the outcome, and identified lawyers the community could work with. On Friday last week, the community identified a parent who is eligible for legal aid that was willing to take on the case, and the lawyers were examining the facts of the case just as the Cabinet itself decided it needed to rescind the decision to merge the school.

Formal notices are now expected to be published shortly.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We welcome the decision by Barking and Dagenham Council to reverse the proposed merger of Village Infants into William Ford. If the merger had gone ahead, the result would have been a more segregated school system, with the new school religiously discriminating in admissions and employment policies. It is vital that our education system is as inclusive as possible so that children grow up knowing those whose beliefs are different from their own, and are not segregated based on their parents’ religious beliefs.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at or on 0781 55 89 636.

View details of the 11 July Cabinet meeting and report on the proposed amalgamation:

View the proposals and consultation document:

Read the BHA press release, ‘Dagenham Council votes for community school to merge into Church school – against both schools’ wishes’, 12 July 2012:

Read the BHA press release, ‘Teachers at Dagenham community school to strike over planned incorporation into Church school’, 4 July 2012:

Read the Council’s press release on proceeding with the merger:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.