Schools Secretary Ed Balls’ crusade against faith schools “is an attack on our freedom”, a Daily Telegraph columnist has warned.
Benedict Brogan said Mr Balls’ “drive to control the admissions policies of faith schools robs parents of vital choices”.
His comments echoed the remarks of Cristina Odone who on Tuesday, also writing in The Daily Telegraph, slammed Labour’s “anti-faith agenda”.
Mr Balls defended his position in a letter to the Telegraph on Wednesday.
He repeated what he had said in October last year: “I fully support and am committed to the role of faith schools in our education system.”
But Mr Brogan questioned his sincerity, mentioning an incident in March, where “he set up a hue and cry against the ‘shocking’ behaviour of faith schools which solicited donations from would-be parents, only to have his ‘evidence’ discredited when it turned out the schools were Jewish and the ‘payments’ were voluntary contributions to help with security costs.”
Mr Brogan cited a number of cases where faith schools have been reprimanded for trying to uphold their ethos.
He said: “A Catholic school on Merseyside and an Anglican school in Epsom were both taken to task for asking parents to sign forms supporting their Christian ethos”.
Mr Brogan added that “some highly rated Sikh schools were upbraided for encouraging parents to take part in community activities, in case that discriminated against those unable to attend, perhaps because of work”.
He went on to say it is no wonder faith schools “feel besieged by a Government that is using its statutory powers to challenge their very reason for being: the right to make faith and a commitment to it the deciding factor in admissions”.
Earlier in the week Cristina Odone had accused Mr Balls of being politically motivated in his attack on faith schools.
She said: “The ambitious schools secretary is pursuing an anti-faith agenda in order to curry favour with the substantial secularist wing of his party.”
Miss Odone concluded that Mr Balls “thinks nothing of stomping on the rights of Christian, Jewish or Muslim parents to raise their child in a school environment that matches the morals-based approach of the home”.