Are you facing the prospect of your child being unable to gain admittance to your local school, because of religious selection? Or have you had to game the system in order to get them in? Are you happy to live in a society in which children are discriminated against on these grounds, while parents feel compelled to behave in this manner?

This situation is clearly unfair, and that’s what we’re here to challenge. We are a new campaign that is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations, aiming to tackle the single issue of religious selection in school admissions.

You can find advice for parents and ways you can get involved in the Campaign as well as more about us and why this is an issue that urgently needs addressing.

Chief Schools Adjudicator’s annual report criticises complexity of some faith-based admissions policies

The annual report of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) has today criticised the complexity and lack of clarity of some faith-based admissions arrangements; the lack of compliance by the guidance of some religious authorities with the School Admissions Code; the fact that some faith schools have not been taking looked after and previously looked after children and children with medical or social needs until after all those of the faith of the school; and the fact that some faith schools have resisted complying with local fair access protocols.

In the report, Dr Elizabeth Passmore, Chief Schools Adjudicator, writes that ‘Some of the schools with a religious character have faith-based oversubscription criteria with faith requirements that are extensive and require a parent to be well organised and study the arrangements carefully, sometimes several years before applying for a place, to ensure that their child will have a realistic chance of gaining a place at the school. The Code at paragraph 1.37 says, “Admission authorities must ensure that parents can easily understand how any faith-based criteria will be reasonably satisfied.” Admission authorities need to look carefully at their faith-based oversubscription criteria and ensure they comply with this requirement.’

Welcoming the publication, Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Assocation (BHA), commented, ‘It is vital that all schools, including all religious schools, comply with the School Admissions Code. The Code is designed to ensure that schools’ admission arrangements are clear and fair and yet we have seen widespread issues with non-compliance, particularly from some of the most socio-economically selective schools. The Fair Admissions Campaign will be publishing further research on this matter in due course.’

Commenting on the annual report, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said, ‘From a religious point of view, it is profoundly disappointing that some faith schools use admissions procedures to edit out children they consider undesirable – it begs the question of what sort of religious ethos they really have and what happened to their mission to serve the community around them?’


What the report says

60. The complexity of some schools’ admission arrangements continues to be a matter of concern… The complex arrangements compared with the clearest have some or all of: numerous oversubscription criteria and sometimes subcategories within them; different categories of places; more than one catchment area; feeder schools; tens of points available and needed to gain priority; banding and therefore tests to be taken; aptitude assessment; and several faith-based oversubscription criteria.

62. Schools designated as having a religious character may include faith-based oversubscription criteria that can be applied if the school is oversubscribed. The relevant faith body has an important role in ensuring that the guidance it gives about admissions, especially about the oversubscription criteria, takes account of the requirements set out in the Code. There are examples of clear and precise guidance that includes a limited faith requirement and a short, clear specimen supplementary information form. Other examples of guidance have not been amended following the publication of the 2012 Code, and offer supplementary forms of several pages that include matters which do not comply with the Code. There have been many objections and referrals concerning the admission arrangements of faith schools this year. Some cases have been about matters other than the faith-based oversubscription criteria, for example, priority for children attending the school’s nursery; others have been to the faith criteria and whether the practice specified complies with the Code; others have queried exactly what is required to meet the faith-based oversubscription criteria so that a child can gain priority for admission to the school. Some of the schools with a religious character have faith-based oversubscription criteria with faith requirements that are extensive and require a parent to be well organised and study the arrangements carefully, sometimes several years before applying for a place, to ensure that their child will have a realistic chance of gaining a place at the school. The Code at paragraph 1.37 says, “Admission authorities must ensure that parents can easily understand how any faith-based criteria will be reasonably satisfied.” Admission authorities need to look carefully at their faith-based oversubscription criteria and ensure they comply with this requirement.

99. As in previous years a number of local authorities express concern that some schools designated as having a religious character give priority, as permitted by the Code, to looked after, previously looked after and all other children of the faith before looked after and previously looked after children not of the faith. This may result in it being difficult, or even impossible, for a looked after or previously looked after child other than of the faith to be admitted to some popular, high achieving faith schools.

102. Some local authorities express concern at the lack of or in the level of priority given to children with disabilities in the arrangements of own admission authority schools. In a substantial number of these schools, the priority may be second only to looked after and previously looked after children, whereas many faith schools in particular give priority to all children of the faith before giving priority to other children not of the faith who have social, medical or physical needs. The situation is thus similar to that described above concerning looked after and previously looked after children. If the school is oversubscribed with children of the faith then children with social, medical or physical needs who are not of the faith of that school may not be offered places, irrespective of the suitability of the school for their particular needs.

112. [With respect to the fair access protocol] a number of local authorities report that not all schools are cooperative and that there is active resistance to the protocol from some. At one end of the spectrum, this resistance may be a relatively mild expression of disquiet when a school feels that, because it is not oversubscribed, it has been approached more frequently than other schools and so admits a high number of children who pose challenges. At the other extreme, there may be a more fundamental unwillingness, for example in a faith school, to admit children not of the faith through the protocol ahead of those of the faith who are on the waiting list.

 

Notes

For further information or comment please contact Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

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 LecturersBritish 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 AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Richmond Catholic schools: cynical conversion to Academy status

In 2011-2012, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) fought a battle for fair admissions at a new 150 pupil/year Catholic secondary in Twickenham. The battle ended in the High Court, where RISC and the British Humanist Association obtained a judicial review of the local council’s decision to provide a valuable site for the Voluntary Aided (VA) Catholic schools, rather than seeking applications for a Free School/Academy, which is supposed to be the default structure for new schools. That was important because new faith-based Free Schools/Academies can ‘only’ have up to 50% faith-based selection. The Diocese insisted on a VA structure because they wanted up to 100% faith-based selection, and the 50% limit does not apply to VA schools. Unfortunately the Department for Education intervened to support the Council’s position and the case was lost.

The VA schools opened in September 2013. As expected, they are over-subscribed and the secondary is effectively closed to the 90% of local children whose parents are not Catholics, even if they live across the road. It is, of course, state-funded.

RISC predicted back in 2012 that, having opened as VA in 2013, the school would convert to Academy status shortly afterwards, securing even more state money, while retaining its discriminatory admissions. It can get away with that because an existing (as opposed to new) VA school that converts to an Academy is allowed to keep its admissions policy. In fact RISC obtained under a Freedom of Information request a Department for Education document dated December 2011 implying the Diocese and the DfE planned to use this loophole all along.

That is now happening. The school is currently consulting on a proposal to switch to an academy. And the local press has picked up the issue:

RTT Catholic academy

 

Notes

For further information or comment please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

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 LecturersBritish 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 AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Widespread socio-economic segregation caused by religiously selective admissions revealed

The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC) has revealed startling new insight about the extent to which selection by faith leads to greater socio-economic segregation in England’s state funded school system. The research was set out yesterday at a packed-out fringe meeting at the Labour Party autumn conference hosted by the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Campaign for State Education, Comprehensive Future and the Socialist Educational Association, titled ‘Is the Future Comprehensive? Schools for One Nation’.

The FAC’s research was set out by Simon Barrow, who is Co-Director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia and a Steering Group member of the Accord Coalition – both groups helped co-found the FAC last summer. He was joined on the panel of speakers by Patsy Kane, headteacher of Whalley Range High School in Manchester; the author and commentator, Owen Jones, and journalist and education campaigner, Fiona Millar. The meeting was chaired by the writer and campaigner, Melissa Benn.

Owen Jones and Simon Barrow

Owen Jones and Simon Barrow

Simon Barrow argued that pupils being educated with those from different backgrounds helped build a more connected society and that religious selection led to greater socio-economic segregation. To highlight the extent of this problem he revealed new findings from the FAC showing that while grammar schools are on average almost twice as socio-economically selective as religiously selective secondary schools, because religiously selective secondary schools are more numerous they make a greater contribution overall in making the state-funded school system more socio-economically segregated at the secondary level. The combined impact of socio-economic segregation by religious selection at the primary and secondary phases is twice that caused at grammar schools. Finally, overall, there are more state school places that are subject to religious selection in England than there are places allocated by academic ability, aptitude, or gender, or at private schools, combined.

Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar

Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar

Mr Barrow objected to children’s life chances being damaged according to their faith or belief background. He said it went against his support for equality and dignity based on his Christian beliefs, and also went against the beliefs of many other people who held differing religious and non-religious life stances. He urged the Labour Party to commit to phasing out selection by faith to state funded schools; to have Ofsted again inspect schools on their contribution towards promoting community cohesion, and to add a broad and balanced Religious Education curriculum to the National Curriculum.

Patsy Kane highlighted the tactics that some parents used to get their children into grammar schools and said academic selection of children at age 11 was not justifiable. She argued that it lowered expectations for those children that failed to gain admittance to grammar schools and could lead to siblings being split up. She said comprehensive schools were better at ensuring pupils were stretched and challenged during their schooling, and argued that society could not afford to limit the ambitions of pupils at a young age when children still had great potential to change.

Owen Jones said comprehensive education and schools moving away from selection should be an ideal found at the centre of the Labour Party. He cited a range of sources of inequality in society and labelled educational inequality as inexcusable. He urged that forms of segregation caused by schools should be tackled and described pupil selection by faith as having become a ‘scam’.

Fiona Millar argued that if the Labour Party was to create a fairer society it needed to address current forms of selection in pupil admissions. She said grammar schools caused nearby schools to have skewed intakes and led many families to ensure their children began being coached for the eleven plus up to four years in advance. She said international rankings indicated that the best school systems were ones that gave schools autonomy, employed high quality teachers and had schools with socially balanced pupil intakes. She urged that parents should be assured that comprehensive schools were fairer, but also provided a higher quality of education.

Notes

For further information or comment please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

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 LecturersBritish 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 AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Fair Admissions Campaign welcomes Schools Adjudicator’s decision on London Oratory School

The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC) has today welcomed the decision taken by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) with respect to the 2014 and 2015 admissions arrangements of the London Oratory School. The case was triggered by FAC-supporting group the British Humanist Association (BHA) in April last year. The BHA reports:

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) has found the 2014 and 2015 admissions policies of the London Oratory School to be discriminatory on the basis of ethnicity and socio-economic background – believed to be the first time a school has been found to discriminate on both of these grounds. The wide-ranging, comprehensive decision has identified an unprecedented total of 105 areas of the school’s policy breaking the School Admissions Code (63 with respect to the 2014 policy and 42 with respect to the 2015 policy). The school was also found:

  • to be taking account of religious activities other than those permitted by its diocese,
  • to be requiring parents to practically support the Catholic Church,
  • to not have had sufficient regard to the diocesan guidance, and
  • to not be allowing children of non-religious parents to gain admission (if not oversubscribed with children of religious parents).

It has been told to stop giving priority to parents on the basis of activities such as flower-arranging and to look again at the stringency of its arrangements with respect to baptism, worship, Holy Communion and requiring Catholic primary education.

On ethnicity and socio-economic factors, the adjudicator compared the school to the 12 Catholic secondaries in neighbouring boroughs and found its intake to be less diverse. On ethnicity the adjudicator found the school to be taking disproportionately many white pupils, concluding, ‘I do not believe that the school can claim that its ethnic composition is even representative of that of the Catholic children attending schools in the part of London in which it is located. It seems to me instead that the diversity within the school is the lowest, or very nearly the lowest, of that found in all 13 schools.’

On socio-economic selection, the adjudicator concluded that ‘the data tend to support the existence of some level of social selection within the Catholic population, at least by some schools, including The London Oratory School… From the evidence which I have seen there is good reason to believe that the admission arrangements which the school uses have the effect of acting to produce at the very least a degree of social selection.’ The adjudicator concluded that ‘the arrangements unfairly disadvantage Catholic families who are less well off, in contravention of paragraph 1.8 of the Code.’ Paragraph 1.8 says ‘Admission authorities must ensure that their arrangements will not disadvantage unfairly, either directly or indirectly, a child from a particular social or racial group’.

British Humanist Association (BHA) Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome today’s wide-ranging decision by the schools adjudicator which is the most comprehensive we have ever seen. The London Oratory School is one of the ten most socio-economically selective state secondary schools in England. 6% of pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals, compared with over a third locally. It is vital that no school discriminates against any pupil on the basis of religion, ethnicity or social standing and we are glad that the school must now rewrite its admissions policy to lessen the degree of discrimination on all fronts.’

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, commented, ‘Many would have expected a faith school to have followed basic religious teachings such as being fair, inclusive and not discriminating against others. To be found to have breached these values not only brings the London Oratory into disrepute, but begs the question of whether faith schools will always be divisive unless they have an admissions policy that treats all children as equal, and which should hardly be a big ask for those who preach loving your neighbour as yourself.’

Jeremy Rodell, Chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, added, ‘The London Oratory’s failure to follow the Admissions Code unfairly discriminates against some Catholic parents. But addressing it should not blind us to the far greater unfairness of this high quality state-funded school effectively excluding 90% of London’s children simply because their parents are not Catholics.’

Notes

For further information or comment please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

The BHA complained about the school’s 2014 policy in April last year. In August the OSA issued a decision against the school, but the school threatened to judicially review this, and in January the OSA found an inconsequential error in it, deciding that it had to be quashed and redone. Today’s new decision, which also looked at the school’s 2015 policy, has again found against the school, and on a much more comprehensive basis than before.

Read the OSA’s decision: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/ADA-2410-The-London-Oratory-School-LBHF-15-July-2014.doc

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 LecturersBritish 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 AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Fair Admissions Campaign gives cautious welcome to comments from new CofE chief education officer suggesting move towards inclusivity

The Fair Admissions Campaign has cautiously welcomed comments from Nigel Genders, the incoming Chief Education Officer of the Church of England, suggesting that many new CofE schools will be fully inclusive in their admissions policies. While the moves are welcome, the Campaign has suggested that the Church needs to do more to ensure that all new schools are fully open and, more significantly, that admissions policies are similarly opened up in existing schools.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Genders has said that ‘most of the new schools that the Church of England has provided over recent years have all been entirely open admissions policies so that they would serve their local community. They have been built for that particular purpose… We’re now responding to pressure on pupil places and wanting to serve local areas with the high quality of education that our schools provide. It’s no surprise that they will become more open in their admissions policies to enable them to do so.’ Mr Genders, who becomes Chief Education Officer in September, cited four schools that opened in London last year that do not religiously select, and the fact that three more opening this September will be similarly open.

However, other new Church schools are less inclusive. Free Schools are not allowed to select more than half of their places on the basis of faith. The Fair Admissions Campaign can identify five which are fully inclusive, namely St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in Camden, St Mary’s Hampton Church of England Primary School in Richmond, Walthamstow Primary Academy, Cornerstone CofE Primary School in Hampshire and Meridian Water Primary School in Enfield are or will be fully open.

But seven CofE Free Schools select the maximum 50% permitted, namely Becket Keys Church of England School in Essex, Barrow 1618 Free School in Shropshire, the King’s School in Hove, University Cathedral Free School in Chester, Didsbury CE Free School in Manchester, St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Ealing and Fulham Boys School. And William Perkin Church of England High School in Ealing, which opened last year with a fully inclusive admissions policy and is often cited as a success story on this front, has now moved away from inclusivity to instead give priority for some places to children attending a fully religiously selective Church primary.

Further afield, the Green School for Boys in Hounslow is also currently proposed to open, and it too wants to select 50% of pupils on the basis of faith. The Diocese of London wants all of its new schools to be fully open, so it is disappointing that four of them are not. Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) contacted the school and Diocese about this inconsistency, and received little support from either party.

An analysis by the Campaign of the admissions policies of all Church of England secondary schools has found that just over half of places at them are not subject to religious selection criteria. But if we ignore CofE schools that are not fully in control of their own admissions policies, then under a third of places are open.

Jeremy Rodell, chair of RISC, commented, ‘Nigel Genders’ comments on inclusive admissions to new church of England Schools statement is a step in the right direction. However, in practice the church continues to set up new non-inclusive schools, such as The Green School for Boys in Hounslow, which will be 50% faith-based – the maximum allowed for a free school. And, if inclusivity is a good thing, as Nigel Genders clearly believes it is, why are dioceses apparently doing nothing to pressurise governing bodies at their schools with high levels of faith-based selection to open up and serve the whole of their communities? In Richmond & Twickenham, for example, there are several Anglican primary schools with highly discriminatory admissions policies.’

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, commented, ‘Any move to make schools more inclusive is to be welcomed – especially as turning away children deemed to be of “the wrong faith” at the school-gate gives a terrible message about an “us-and-them society” to both the excluded children and to those who are admitted. But words have to be followed up with actions, and the key test is whether discrimination ceases to be associated with the admission policy of faith schools.’

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome Nigel Genders’ comments that more Church of England schools will be open in their admissions policies, but would encourage the Church of England to move to also reduce religious selection in its existing schools, which comprise the vast majority of the whole. Some of these schools can be extremely selective, giving priority to pupils on the basis of activities such as flower arranging, church cleaning and so on. When the Bishop of Oxford took on the role of Chair of the Church of England Board of Education in 2011, he said he wanted no school to select more than 10% of pupils on the basis of faith. We hope that Nigel Genders will similarly advocate for much more inclusivity.’

Notes

For further information or comment please contact Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

Read Nigel Genders’ comments in The Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10890470/Selection-by-faith-axed-at-new-wave-of-Anglican-schools.html

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 LecturersBritish 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 AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.