Monthly Archives: September 2013

Blog: One parent deals with the consequences of religious selection

Below, one (agnostic) parent anonymously shares her journal entry after her daughter’s first day at primary school – outlining their situation after failing to get her admitted to a nearby school (including the Church school next door) due to religious discrimination:

Yesterday my partner towed our daughter in the bike trailer to her school. I cycled alongside – against the flow of pupils headed for the local school by car and by foot. It was a tough slog up the hill. I will not be able to tow a trailer up that hill. So on the days when I take her, we will walk.

The shortest route is not a pleasant walk, nor to cycle, as it follows main roads. There are no bus links and it’s headed out of town; the wrong direction for work.

Mid-morning the Head of the school next door to our house phoned. There’d been an error, she said, our daughter was not first on the waiting list in July; the council has got it wrong. We were second, or used to be. Because then a latecomer joined the list with a religious reference so actually we were 3rd. Or used to be. Because now there’d been some churn and the two kids, who we didn’t know were in front, had got places. So now our daughter IS actually first on the waiting list. And this is good, the head said, because at 0.07miles from the school she is the closest of all the children who are close!
Are you following? No, neither did we.

I think she was saying that it is positive that our daughter is top of this list of children who won’t get a place. No one can get in ahead of us on proximity! Which, yes, could be good, if the school did not consider proximity to be almost irrelevant in deciding who would be admitted.

In any case, she was about to ring someone to offer a place, but thought she’d ring us first in case we heard about it and wondered why it wasn’t us. I said, not to worry, it was unlikely we would have heard anything as this family is probably not local. (ouchy!)

She then asked what school our daughter is at, if she has started and were we still be interested in changing even once she is settled. I explained the distance, that there are no buses, we don’t have a car and there are 3 closer schools, so yes we’d change. We’d settle even for the third closest as we could share school runs with the neighbours.

She immediately named the neighbours’ kids I meant. I was impressed. She may even know all the names of the local kids her school rejects. I thought this must be something to do with calling themselves a ‘community’ school.  And even though I didn’t say this… she went on to talk about the community school label, to say that she doesn’t agree with the religious selection policy, that it’s distorted in recent years so that few children in the community get in. She hopes it will change soon. In fact she thinks it WILL change soon (note to self…she has said this before in previous years… don’t get excited) but waiingt lists will still be assessed according the rules of the year of the original application, so actually no difference for us (see? Do not get excited).

I told her that I didn’t understand the purpose of selection; I know people from another faith who get places. She took pride in this – ‘yes we are a multi faith, multicultural school, as we should be’.

‘And you rank all these faiths in order of importance!’ – No, I bit my tongue just in time.

Here are the rankings:

Parish C of E, then out of parish C of E, then RC, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Mormon and other Christian faiths; then Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Jehovah’s witness and other faiths. Agnostics and atheists.

Agnostics and atheists rank equally last, but, if you were to ask me to get into the spirit of these selection criteria, agnostics should have the edge. At least we haven’t entirely rejected all faiths.

I, like many baptised, confirmed and then lapsed Irish people, am agnostic. I think it’s hard for people like me to become a proper atheist.

My partner is an atheist. He attended a Church of England primary.

Our daughter has actually recently become a big fan of Jesus. She found Him on a hill in South America and we haven’t held her back. It will be her choice. However we haven’t signed her up to a church, because we are not members of a church. Some might say, if we were so keen she goes to the school next door, that we should play the game. I think that would a terrible introduction to a faith for her. Lesson 1: the art of discrimination. Lesson 2: hypocrisy.

To challenge it, I need to understand the spirit of the selection. I can understand a C of E school wanting to serve its parish, and would not consider it particularly unfair if they selected 10% from the local church; in line with their funding. But what’s the deal with prioritising any faith over those without a faith? Is this about uniting against the godless? Then. if that were the case, why prioritise C of E outside the parish over Roman Catholics and RC over Hindus or Jews?

Could it just be simply Ofsted rating chasing; they think that parents who make the effort to go to church are more likely to take an interest in their child’s education?

I attempted school pick up yesterday. I cycled up to the school with her scooter on my back rack, but coming back was a struggle. My four year old was exhausted and just whined. The pavement is too narrow to walk side by side, the surface too potholed for her scooter and there’s a lot of traffic. Halfway back she refused to go any farther and I called her dad to come pick us up with the trailer.

This on a fine dry day – what will it be like midwinter? Her father won’t be able to do this every day. We’re not in the worst situation. She has a school place when many don’t. Some kids have to travel even further. So I am not complaining, but I am angry and I don’t know where to direct this anger.

If it’s not the head.

And it’s not the Church of England (the Bishop of Oxford has come out strongly against selection).

It could be the governors.

It could be the local Diocese.

It could be the council and Government, which provide almost all of their funding yet allow 100% selection on religious grounds.

It could be all of them and none. I think they all bear some responsibility. While all of them, bar perhaps the governors, profess that they, they personally, don’t like the situation either, not one of them feels tasked to change it.

From my garden I can see the playground next door and hear the kids on their break. My ideal is that my daughter will be able one day to walk alone to primary school, not be trekked along main roads to the next neighbourhood. None of the parents who park their cars outside our house want that, neither for my child nor their own.

This morning we saw our neighbour walk his children the opposite direction to the third closest school. They are part of the local diaspora; the children allocated out to other areas. If even anyone else near us was going to our daughter’s school it would help; she’d walk more easily in the company of other children – though the pavement’s widths and the busy roads would still be a problem.

Fair Admissions Campaign at the Labour Party Conference

The Accord Coalition and Labour Teachers co-hosted a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Autumn Conference in Brighton on Sunday evening on the Fair Admissions Campaign, titled ‘Faith & segregation: The future of religious selection at state funded faith schools’.

Speakers at the event were Chair of Accord, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain; Dr Mary Bousted, the General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; The Rev Stephen Terry, a former Chair of Governors at a state funded faith school and Rector of the Parish of Aldrington in Hove; and Barry Sheerman MP, who served as Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee from 2001 to 2010 and is a Lay Canon at Wakefield Cathedral. The meeting was chaired by Labour Teachers Co-editor John Taylor.

Rabbi Romain called for greater fairness in the admission policies to state funded faith schools. He noted that faith schools are the only part of the public sector allowed to choose who they served on religious grounds and argued that such selection would be unthinkable in other areas, such as in the provision of health care or regarding those who could be enrolled into different branches of the military, yet is permitted in schools, the civic institutions best placed to promote inclusive values in society.

Rabbi Romain observed that state funded faith schools are able to select pupils on faith grounds because they are exempt from the Equality Act, which he argued showed that such practices depart from society’s normal standards. He called on the Labour Party to commit in its manifesto for the next General Election to end faith discrimination in pupil admissions.

The Reverend Stephen Terry argued that society often incorrectly assumed that those with strong beliefs wanted to separate themselves from those that did not share them. However he believed the claim made by the Church of England’s Board of Education that its schools were for the whole community is sometimes different in reality and highlighted socio-economic segregation as a particular problem for Church schools.

He stated that wealthier parents are better positioned to use the education system to the advantage of their children and called upon Church schools to keep their ethos, but to adopt the same admission arrangements as community schools. He believed this would free Church schools from appearing elitist and socially divisive and would turn Anglican schools full circle, so that they return to their original mission of providing education for all those in need of it.

Dr Mary Bousted maintained that the practice of state funded schools in England and Wales selecting by faith was an international outlier. She cited a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that shows that England is one of only four out of thirty two OECD member countries assessed which allowed schools to operate in this way.

Barry Sherman MP spoke about his experience of witnessing state funded schools being required to follow the School Admissions Code and of former admission practices that had led to greater covert social selection taking place at faith schools. On top of facing challenges over admissions, Mr Sheerman also argued that the faith school sector needs take more seriously issues of equality of opportunity for people on the grounds of gender and sexual diversity.

A Party member from Bristol asked the panel how they should respond to people who say they have a right to send their children to a faith school. Rabbi Romain said European and Human Rights law did not require the state to provide parents with state funded faith schooling for their children and that pupils attending a community school can learn about religious and cultural beliefs in the home and places of worship.

Ann Cryer, who served as MP for Keighley between 1997 and 2010, told the panel she was disappointed that none of them spoke about lessons from single faith schooling in Northern Ireland. Dr Bousted said there were parallels between the ethnic and religious segregation between schools in Northern Ireland and places in northern England that suffered from race riots in 2001, such as Oldham. Dr Bousted called upon schools to ensure they guaranteed pupils with an education that taught about the beliefs of people different to both themselves and the school.

Fair Admissions Campaign reveals the 50 segregated schools most unrepresentative of their local areas

The fifty most socio-economically selective state secondary comprehensives in England have been revealed in new research today, published by the Fair Admissions Campaign. The new research ranks schools according to how unrepresentative they are of their local areas in the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM). The list is overwhelmingly dominated by religiously selective schools, exposing sharply the segregating effects of faith-based admissions criteria. The Campaign has called on these schools to urgently review their admissions policies, and for the Government to take more steps to curb such actions.

Following on from similar findings published last month, today’s research compares the figures for each school to those of its Middle Super Output Area (MSOA), a geographical area roughly equivalent in size to the intake of a secondary school. It compares schools’ populations to the pupils living in their MSOAs, as recorded in the National Pupil Database.

Of the 100 worst offending comprehensives on the basis of FSM, 69 have admissions criteria that are religiously selective – including 18 of the worst offending 20. Including grammar schools, 51 of the top 100 are religiously selective, or 11 of the top 20. For comparison, 16% of all secondary schools are religiously selective.

Examining the admissions criteria of the twenty worst offending schools on the basis of FSM, almost all of them are extremely complex, and a number seem very likely to breach the School Admissions Code, which all schools are required by law to follow. Prominent schools in the worst offending twenty comprehensives on FSM include the London Oratory School (which is ninth), where 6.6% of pupils require Free School Meals, compared to 38.7% in its local area. It now has to rewrite its admissions policy after the Schools Adjudicator ruled last month that its current criteria break the Code in ten different places. The sixteenth school on the list, The Coventry Blue Coat Church of England School and Music College, was also similarly ordered to rewrite its criteria after they were found to be too complex. The Campaign’s full analysis can be found below.

Click to read about the top 20 most unrepresentative state comprehensive schools in terms of Free School Meals

  1. Birmingham Ormiston Academy 14-19 is not a faith school. It opened two years ago and focuses on just creative, digital and performing arts, admitting and aiming to cater for pupils interested in this limited range of subject interests, after an aptitude test. It is likely that this has made it unrepresentative of its area. 58% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 7% in the school.
  2. St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, a Church of England school in Bristol has admissions criteria that allow it to select 93% of pupils on the basis of faith, requiring worship by both parent and child at least three times a month for three years. 51% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 8% in the school.
  3. The Blue Coat CofE School in Oldham has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils, requiring at least 45 worships by parent and child over four years. 47% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 7% in the school.
  4. Sacred Heart High School, a girls’ Catholic school in Hammersmith and Fulham, has admissions criteria to select 100% of its pupils and has twelve categories of Catholic. It requires baptism within six months, four years of mass attendance and it uses all Catholic primaries as feeders without naming specific schools (likely to be an Admissions Code breach – if you are to have feeders you have to specifically name them). The school is the girls’ counterpart of the boys’ London Oratory School. 46% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 6% in the school.
  5. Archbishop Blanch CofE VA High School, a girls’ school in Liverpool that has admissions criteria to select 93% of pupils in an extremely complex way; it requires weekly parental and child attendance at worship throughout the last four years. It also gives applicants more points for ‘Involvement of the family in Church life beyond simple attendance at weekly worship’. What this means appears to be undefined, but elsewhere there is talk of ‘e.g. certificate of reception into the church, baptism, communion and confirmation certificates. Other evidence could include altar server certificates, or letters of support from Sunday School or Children’s Liturgy etc.’ This is likely to break the Admissions Code. 51% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 13% in the school.
  6. Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School, which has admissions criteria which are 100% selective, is a Charedi Jewish girls’ school in Hackney, prioritises ‘Charedi Jewish girls who meet the Charedi criteria as prescribed by the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.’ This has a long definition including ‘All members of this community lead an extremely modest way of life dictated by the highest moral and ethical values… Charedi homes do not have TV or other inappropriate media, and parents will ensure that their children will not have access to the Internet and any other media which do not meet the stringent moral criteria of the Charedi community. Families will also dress at all times in accordance with the strictest standards of Tznius (modesty)’. There are no objective measures such as regular worship attendance, which is likely to be a breach of the Admissions Code. 38% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 2% in the school.
  7. St Aidan’s Catholic Academy which has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils, is a boys’ school in Sunderland, requiring applicants to be baptised. 45% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 10% in the school.
  8. St James’s Church of England High School, a 100% selective school in Bolton, gives points for parents and children attending worship but doesn’t say how often or frequent that worship must be – a likely breach of the Admissions Code. 39% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 7% in the school.
  9. London Oratory School, has admissions criteria to be 100% selective and is a boys’ school in Fulham, requires baptism within six months of birth and regular attendance at worship by parent and child for three years. It also has a ‘Catholic service criterion’, requiring two years of service to the Catholic Church, with activities including flower arranging. However, following on from a ruling by the Schools Adjudicator last month, it must now rewrite its criteria. 39% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 7% in the school.
  10. Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School and Language College in Coventry has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils on the basis of faith, requiring children to be baptised. 49% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 17% in the school.
  11. The King David High School, a Jewish school in Manchester, has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils and requires membership of a particular Synagogue. It also uses unnamed feeder schools which is likely to be a breach of the Admissions Code. 33% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 2% in the school.
  12. St James’ Catholic High School in Barnet selects 100% of pupils on the basis of faith. It requires baptism and weekly mass attendance in order to get a priests’ signature but fails to define how long or frequent such mass attendance must be. 44% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 12% in the school.
  13. Hull Trinity House School is the second of two schools in the top 20 with no religious character. It selects pupils using aptitude bands across four different geographic zones – the latter of these two facts possibly causing it to be so unrepresentative. 53% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 20% in the school.
  14. Lady Margaret School is a girls’ Church of England school in Hammersmith and Fulham and has admissions criteria to select 56% of pupils on the basis of faith. It is the third religious secondary school in its borough to appear on this list (with there being four religious secondaries in the borough in total). It requires fortnightly Church attendance for three years, and uses unnamed feeder schools – likely to be a breach of the Admissions Code. 40% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 10% in the school.
  15. St Bede’s Catholic College in Bristol has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils on the basis of faith. It requires ‘adherence to the Catholic faith’ without defining what this means, just requiring a priest’s signature – likely to be a breach of the Admissions Code. 34% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 6% in the school.
  16. The Coventry Blue Coat Church of England School and Music College has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils, requiring weekly Church attendance without saying how long for. The Schools Adjudicator has just ruled that the complexity of the school’s criteria breaks the Admissions Code. 36% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 7% in the school.
  17. Notre Dame High School, Norwich is a Catholic school and has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils. It uses unnamed feeder schools, likely to be a breach of the Admissions Code. 33% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 6% in the school.
  18. All Saints’ Catholic High School in Sheffield has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils on the basis of faith. In June it was found by the Schools Adjudicator to be in breach of the Admissions Code. 39% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 11% in the school.
  19. The Trinity Catholic School in Nottingham has admissions criteria to select 100% of pupils on the basis of faith, requiring baptism. 37% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 10% in the school.
  20. The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC School is a boys’ school in Kensington and Chelsea that selects 100% of pupils on the basis of faith. It famously had a battle with Westminster Diocese in 2010 as a result of selecting based on parents’ service to the Catholic Church. It requires baptism and regular practice (but doesn’t say how often/for how long – potentially an Admissions Code breach). 34% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 7% in the school.

The worst performing Sikh school in the list is Guru Nanak Academy which is ranked no 28. There are Muslim schools at nos 34 (Preston Muslim Girls High School) and 37 (Tauheedul Islam Girls High School). All have admissions criteria to select100% of pupils on the basis of faith.

Looking at the best performing, no 20 from best is Fulham College Boys’ School, presumably taking all the pupils excluded from the faith schools of Hammersmith and Fulham. 23% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 50% in the school.

No 21 is Waterhead Academy in Oldham, which was deliberately created to bring together white and Asian pupils in one school. It replaced two segregated schools which were shut down. 4% of local pupils are eligible for FSM, compared to 32% in the school.

Click to show a table of the full top 50

Note that the adjusted percentage is an attempt to compensate for the fact that the MSOA data also includes primary-age pupils. The below table differs slightly from the one published by The Telegraph in that it sorts based on this adjusted value instead of the raw MSOA percentage.

School Type of establishment Local authority

Religious designation

Gender %age of FSM eligible pupils in MSOA Adjusted %age School FSM %
Birmingham Ormiston Academy 14-19 Academy Sponsor Led Birmingham None

Mixed

57.79

52.03

6.74

St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School Voluntary Aided School Bristol City of Church of England

Mixed

51.49

46.35

7.99

The Blue Coat CofE School Academy – Converter Mainstream Oldham Church of England

Mixed

47.45

42.71

6.75

Sacred Heart High School Voluntary Aided School Hammersmith and Fulham Roman Catholic

Girls

45.75

41.19

6.25

Archbishop Blanch CofE VA High School, A Technology College and Training School Voluntary Aided School Liverpool Church of England

Girls

50.80

45.73

12.79

Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School Voluntary Aided School Hackney Jewish

Girls

37.82

34.05

1.62

St Aidan’s Catholic School Voluntary Aided School Sunderland Roman Catholic

Boys

45.37

40.84

10.13

St James’s Church of England High School Voluntary Aided School Bolton Church of England

Mixed

39.46

35.52

7.04

The London Oratory School Academy – Converter Mainstream Hammersmith and Fulham Roman Catholic

Boys

38.73

34.86

6.60

Cardinal Wiseman Catholic School and Language College Voluntary Aided School Coventry Roman Catholic

Mixed

48.61

43.76

16.55

The King David High School Academy – Converter Mainstream Manchester Jewish

Mixed

32.55

29.30

2.15

St James’ Catholic High School Voluntary Aided School Barnet Roman Catholic

Mixed

43.78

39.41

12.38

Hull Trinity House School Voluntary Aided School Kingston upon Hull City of  None

Boys

52.93

47.65

20.82

Lady Margaret School Voluntary Aided School Hammersmith and Fulham Church of England

Girls

39.63

35.67

10.07

St Bede’s Catholic College Academy – Converter Mainstream Bristol City of Roman Catholic

Mixed

34.46

31.02

5.68

The Coventry Blue Coat Church of England School and Music College Academy – Converter Mainstream Coventry Church of England

Mixed

35.62

32.07

7.09

Notre Dame High School, Norwich Voluntary Aided School Norfolk Roman Catholic

Mixed

33.33

30.01

6.06

All Saints’ Catholic High School Voluntary Aided School Sheffield Roman Catholic

Mixed

38.73

34.87

11.02

The Trinity Catholic School Voluntary Aided School Nottingham Roman Catholic

Mixed

37.47

33.73

10.04

The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC School Voluntary Aided School Kensington and Chelsea Roman Catholic

Boys

33.82

30.44

7.14

The Belvedere Academy Academy Sponsor Led Liverpool None

Girls

38.93

35.05

12.31

Macmillan Academy Academy Sponsor Led Middlesbrough None

Mixed

47.49

42.75

20.08

Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate Girls School Voluntary Aided School Tower Hamlets Roman Catholic

Girls

56.45

50.82

28.42

Trinity CofE High School Academy – Converter Mainstream Manchester Church of England

Mixed

50.46

45.43

24.14

St Ursula’s Convent School Voluntary Aided School Greenwich Roman Catholic

Girls

36.32

32.69

11.43

Manchester Mesivta School Voluntary Aided School Bury Jewish

Boys

24.85

22.37

2.17

Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate Boys School Voluntary Aided School Tower Hamlets Roman Catholic

Boys

56.45

50.82

30.96

Guru Nanak Academy Academy – Converter Mainstream Hillingdon Sikh

Mixed

29.49

26.55

6.80

St Wilfrid’s Church of England Academy Academy – Converter Mainstream Blackburn with Darwen Church of England

Mixed

29.30

26.37

6.68

The Camden School for Girls Voluntary Aided School Camden  None

Girls

44.26

39.84

20.45

Abbey Grange Church of England Academy Academy – Converter Mainstream Leeds Church of England

Mixed

33.23

29.92

10.58

St John Payne Catholic Comprehensive School, Chelmsford Voluntary Aided School Essex Roman Catholic

Mixed

26.37

23.74

4.43

West Hill School Academy – Converter Mainstream Tameside  None

Boys

31.23

28.11

9.21

Preston Muslim Girls High School Voluntary Aided School Lancashire Muslim

Girls

31.68

28.52

9.63

St Michael’s Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided Comprehensive School Voluntary Aided School Stockton-on-Tees Roman Catholic

Mixed

33.21

29.89

11.06

Wardle High School Foundation School Rochdale  None

Mixed

41.05

36.95

18.70

Tauheedul Islam Girls High School Voluntary Aided School Blackburn with Darwen Muslim

Girls

29.65

26.69

8.65

Dixons City Academy Academy Sponsor Led Bradford None

Mixed

33.66

30.30

12.35

Cardinal Hume Catholic School Voluntary Aided School Gateshead Roman Catholic

Mixed

37.44

33.70

16.09

The Grey Coat Hospital Voluntary Aided School Westminster Church of England

Girls

34.55

31.11

13.51

Blessed Robert Sutton Catholic Sports College Voluntary Aided School Staffordshire Roman Catholic

Mixed

27.53

24.78

7.22

Gumley House RC Convent School, FCJ Voluntary Aided School Hounslow Roman Catholic

Girls

29.14

26.23

8.76

St Joseph’s Catholic College (Bradford) Voluntary Aided School Bradford Roman Catholic

Girls

32.69

29.43

11.99

St Patrick’s RC High School and Arts College Voluntary Aided School Salford Roman Catholic

Mixed

34.83

31.36

13.93

The John Loughborough School Voluntary Aided School Haringey Seventh Day Adventist

Mixed

40.31

36.29

18.92

CTC Kingshurst Academy Academy Sponsor Led Solihull None

Mixed

33.75

30.38

13.07

Beverley High School Community School East Riding of Yorkshire None

Girls

24.75

22.28

5.52

Woodchurch High School Engineering College Foundation School Wirral  None

Mixed

44.84

40.36

23.71

Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College Voluntary Aided School Lancashire Roman Catholic

Mixed

28.65

25.79

9.22

St Cuthbert’s High School Voluntary Aided School Newcastle upon Tyne Roman Catholic

Boys

35.37

31.84

15.29

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, chair of the Accord Coalition, has written in today’s Telegraph about the findings. He commented, ‘It is astonishing that faith schools, whose remit should be to look after the needy and vulnerable, seem to be ignoring them; it suggests that an admissions policy based on faith selection has become a back door for socio-economic selection, and that is deeply troubling. It is time to abandon the ability to discriminate in this way and instead have a fair and inclusive selection policy for all schools.’

Professor Ted Cantle CBE of the iCoCo Foundation commented, ‘It is especially disappointing that such serious questions are being raised about the way in which schools that profess a religious ethos provide for their communities. As they receive public funds it is really up to them to constantly demonstrate that they are being fair and even handed and are following following the Admissions Code in both the letter and spirit intended. If full and public disclosures are not forthcoming to clearly demonstrate that all questions are being positively addressed, the Secretary of State should ask Ofsted to intervene.’

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘The state schools in England that are most likely to exclude the poor are religious schools. These findings make clear that there are a number of schools, overwhelmingly many of which are faith schools, whose intakes are completely unrepresentative of their local areas. A quick glance at the faith schools’ admissions policies makes it apparent that all sorts of extreme engineering is going on, often in breach of the School Admissions Code. All these schools are institutions funded by the state to provide a utility to their local communities. That they have distorted this mission and become so unrepresentative is a disservice to those excluded and also those admitted. We urge the Government to remove state schools’ power to discriminate on religious grounds: it is bad for pupils and bad for our society. It creates religious and racial division, but it also creates sharp socio-economic division.’

Jeremy Rodell, spokesperson for the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, commented, ‘In Richmond we have seen some really clear-cut examples of faith-based discrimination leading directly to the social mix at one school being very different to the mix at its neighbours and in the local area. Of course, all parents want – and should demand – high quality schools for their children. But these are state schools which are supposed to provide good quality schooling for everyone in their local communities. Faith-based selection is inherently unfair because it means some parents have a wider choice of state school than others. And its use to enable back-door social selection is indefensible both on the grounds of community cohesion, and on ethical grounds, especially as many faith schools were founded to provide education for the under-privileged.’

Notes

For further comment please contact BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal on 07738 435 059, Accord Coalition Chair Jonathan Romain on 07770 722 893 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

Read Jonathan Romain’s article in today’s The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10322520/Its-time-for-fair-selection-policies-for-all-schools.html

Visit the Fair Admissions Campaign’s website: http://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.

Thousands more religiously restricted places as new schools open

As the new school year starts and new schools open, thousands more children and parents are subjected to religiously restricted admissions criteria in order to gain admittance to their local state school. The Fair Admissions Campaign has calculated that 5,788 religiously restricted places are opening at brand new schools this term, and it is likely that other schools with religious admissions criteria are also expanding their numbers. The Campaign has expressed regret at the news.

17 new Free Schools are opening with religiously restricted admissions criteria, including three Church of England, one Roman Catholic, one Greek Orthodox, three other Christian, three Jewish, three Muslim and three Sikh schools. Free Schools are not permitted to select more than half of their pupils on the basis of faith, but between them it is estimated that once they are filled these schools will have 4,598 places that are subject to religious admissions criteria.

In addition, St Richard Reynolds Catholic College, a new Voluntary Aided secondary school in the London Borough of Richmond, will have 1,190 restricted places. Last year it was the subject of the first ever legal challenge against a new school because of religious selection.

Jeremy Rodell, spokesperson for the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, commented, ‘We have just issued a school-by-school analysis showing the way faith-based discrimination at primary level means non-churchgoing parents are denied choice when they are trying to find places for their children at existing local state-funded primaries. It seems perverse to make that worse by adding even more faith-based places to the system, both in our borough and around the county, especially when the government knows this type of discrimination is opposed by the public by more than four to one.

Professor Ted Cantle CBE of the iCoCo Foundation commented, ‘Around one-quarter of schools in England are of a religious character and some of these are highly selective and segregate children on the basis of faith. We should be breaking down barriers and encouraging integration and understanding rather than making the problem worse. Schools should be part of the solution to prejudice and extremism, not part of the problem.’

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, commented, ‘At a time when school places are severely limited, it seems unfair that those from a particular faith can jump ahead of the queue in state-funded schools where all are supposed to be equal; it highlights the urgency of reassessing the way faith schools operate in society.’

 

Notes

See the figures for the amount of religious selection by newly opening Free Schools: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Amount-of-religious-selection-by-2013-Free-Schools.xlsx.

Local campaign group makes fresh appeal for inclusive admission with publication of faith discrimination report

The Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) has this week published a new report on faith-based discrimination in primary school admissions in the London Borough of Richmond. The report reveals the significant impact that faith-based admissions to local church primary schools has on restricting the choices available to non-churchgoing parents and highlights geographical areas where problems around accessing schools are most severe. RISC is affiliated to the Fair Admissions Campaign, which it helped to co-launch in June.

The publication of the report has provided RISC with an opportunity to renew its call for inclusive admissions and to keep the issue high on the local political agenda and it comes hard on the heels of a recent story of a four year old in Twickenham with no school place at all. The report has been sent to local media, politicians, schools and Dioceses and it includes suggestions on how religiously selective schools can be made more inclusive by following other borough faith schools.

For example, several local faith schools (both Anglican and Roman Catholic) have placed a limit on the amount of pupils they select on religious grounds (the local Anglican Diocese recommends that its schools do not select more than 50% of pupils by faith) and some schools ensure that places allotted to children without recourse to religion are made a higher priority. Meanwhile, the newly opened St Mary’s Hampton Church of England primary has decided not to select any pupils by faith – it has embraced the fully open admissions policy that RISC has been calling for.

RISC spokesman, Jeremy Rodell said: ‘The report is a look at the facts about faith-based discrimination at local primary schools. A third of all primary places are at the sixteen local church schools. Thirteen of them were over-subscribed this year. The result was that, on average, 80% of their places were offered to children selected on the basis of their parents’ religious practice. At the same time, most of the community schools were also over-subscribed. The combined effect was that churchgoing parents had a much wider choice than anyone else, and some parents were not offered a Reception place at a reasonable distance from home. We think that’s unfair, especially as all the schools are state-funded.

‘Our suggestions for improvement are intended to make a constructive contribution to alleviating the pressure. They do not meet RISC’s ultimate aim of full inclusivity. But they are all simple steps school governing bodies can take if they choose to, without changing their schools’ status or ethos. We also hope that Richmond Council will acknowledge the general pressure on primary school places and actively encourage governing bodies to do the right thing.’