Monthly Archives: February 2014

Nick Clegg calls for faith schools to be ‘engines of integration and not silos of segregation’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has told The Tablet that ‘I’ve always protected the right of faiths to establish faith schools. In my own view the crucial thing for faith schools, and I think all the best faith schools do this, is to make sure they act as engines of integration and not silos of segregation. Where they don’t, I do think it’s legitimate to ask faith schools to reach out to other faiths and to other parts of the community.’

Welcoming his comments, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, said, ‘Full marks to Nick Clegg for saying out aloud what most people – including those of faith – hold: that  state-funded faith schools should not divide children from one another and ghettoise the next generation. Inclusivity is a religious value, and it is a blot on the religious landscape that many faith schools have preferred to segregate children of different backgrounds rather than integrate them. There can be no excuse for school governors to pursue admissions policies that smack of religious apartheid.’

Jeremy Rodell, chair of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, commented, ‘In this part of outer London there are many examples of over-subscribed state-funded church schools that are effectively closed to many local children simply on the basis of their parents’ religion. Vince Cable, MP for Twickenham, who supports faith schools in principle, called last year for local church schools to be “more community minded” in their admissions. But in practice school governing bodies simply refuse to change, preferring to maintain their discriminatory admissions policies. With the support of their churches, they have the power to do so. Only action from government will put England into line with almost all other developed countries and reduce or eliminate faith-based discrimination in access to state-funded schools. Maybe Nick Clegg’s intervention is a first step.’

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘In 2010, the Liberal Democrat manifesto said that “We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy.” This transformed into a Coalition agreement commitment to “ensure that all new Academies follow an inclusive admissions policy. We will… facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of [new faith] schools as possible”, which in turn became the policy that Free Schools are only allowed to select up to half of pupils on the basis of faith.

‘While all of this is very welcome, it leaves untouched the vast majority of state-funded faith schools, many of whom have policies enabling them to select every single pupil on the basis of faith. 99.8% of places at Roman Catholic secondary schools are subject to religious admissions criteria, with the pecking order typically being Catholics then other Christian then other faiths then those of no faith. A lot more work needs to be done to stop these schools from being the “silos of segregation” Mr Clegg fears – starting with a renewal of his party’s manifesto commitment.’

Notes

For further comment please contact Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain on 07770 722 893 or at rabromain@aol.com, or Pavan Dhaliwal at 0773 843 5059 or at pavan@humanism.org.uk.

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

Read The Tablet’s article: http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/484/0/clegg-speaks-up-for-faith-schools-as-long-as-they-are-not-silos-of-segregation-

Read more about Liberal Democrat party policy on faith school admissions: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/our-supporters/what-others-say/

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 urges the Church of England and Catholic Church to help the hungry by stopping the exclusion of children entitled to Free School Meals

The Fair Admissions Campaign has appealed to the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England to issue guidance for its schools to not select pupils by faith to ensure that they better serve children from deprived backgrounds.

It follows two high profile interventions on the issue of poverty and hunger in society from leading religious figures. Last week the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, described cuts and changes in the provision of welfare benefits as ‘punitive’ and a ‘disgrace’. Meanwhile a group of religious figures, including 27 of the Church of England’s 59 Bishops, wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister yesterday calling upon the Government to ensure that people do not go hungry.

Research from the Fair Admissions Campaign in December showed that religiously selective state schools were socially exclusive. It found Church of England secondary schools that did not select children by religion admitted 1% fewer pupils entitled to Free School Meals (a government indicator of deprivation) than would be expected if the schools admitted children living locally. In stark contrast those Church of England schools that sought to select all their pupils by faith if sufficiently oversubscribed admitted 35% fewer children entitled to Free School Meals than would be expected if they admitted local children.

Overall, Church of England secondary schools were found to admit 10% fewer children entitled to Free School Meals than expected. Almost all Roman Catholic secondary schools select pupils by faith if oversubscribed (the 2002 Education Act prevented faith schools from turning non-adherents away if under-subscribed) and they were found to admit 24% fewer pupils entitled to Free Schools Meals than lived locally.

The socio-economic bias at religiously selective schools was further demonstrated in December by a survey by the educational charity the Sutton Trust showing that 10 percent of upper middle class parents admitted to false Church attendance so their child can go to a top performing Church School. This is despite faith schools:

▪          only educating a quarter of pupils at state funded schools in England and Wales

▪          many not showing preference to children on faith grounds or not being oversubscribed

▪          many not rewarding church attendance in their over-subscription policy (most Catholic schools only show preference to children who are baptised)

▪          regular church attendees only comprising 10% of the adult population

Meanwhile further manipulation of admissions to religiously selective schools was suggested in January when The Daily Telegraph revealed a surge in the last ten years in the number of children approaching school age who had been baptised by the Roman Catholic Church.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘Many people of faith will be appalled that schools that should focus on the poor have become so elitist. The Church of England and Catholic Church in England and Wales can make an immediate impact on the life chances of children from deprived families by issuing guidance to their schools to not select pupils by faith, but to serve all children in their local community.’

Head of Public Affairs for the British Humanist Association, Pavan Dhaliwal, said ‘No state funded institution should discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief and the more a school discriminates by faith the greater the extent to which it is likely to socio-economically segregate. If the Churches want to demonstrate their commitment to the common good they should open their schools to all local children.’

Notes
Research by the Fair Admissions Campaign into the degree of socio-economic selection at state funded secondary schools in England can be found under the drop down tab ‘Show table’ at the ‘Overall averages’ page at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/map/.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, inferred in an interview with The Times in November that faith schools that do not select by faith better serve the common good. He said:

‘What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good. There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests … It is not necessary to select to get a really good school. There are unbelievably brilliant schools that are entirely open to all applicants without selection criteria apart from residence, where you live, and which produce staggeringly good results. It’s a question of — and you can point to them all over the place — it’s a question of outstanding leadership.’

Contact details
For further comment please contact Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain on 07770 722 893 or at rabromain@aol.com, or Pavan Dhaliwal at 0773 843 5059 or at pavan@humanism.org.uk.

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

About the Fair Admissions Campaign
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.

High profile ‘faith’ schools change admissions policies to comply with the law

Following decisions against them by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, a number of high profile state-funded ‘faith’ schools are now consulting on new admissions policies which remove discriminatory aspects that were found to be in breach of the School Admissions Code (which all schools must follow). The London Oratory School in Fulham, Twyford Church of England High School in Ealing, Grey Coat Hospital School in Westminster and Archbishop Blanch CofE VA School in Liverpool were all found to have admissions policies that required financial or practical support for the Church. The Fair Admissions Campaign has welcomed the changes, but has expressed concern at the remaining high degrees of religious selection.

The London Oratory School’s admissions policy was found in ten different places to break the Code, including in having a ‘Catholic service criterion’, which prioritised parents on the basis of issues such as flower arranging. The school has threatened to judicially review the decision, leading to the decision frustratingly being quashed on a technicality. As a result, it may yet be the case that some of the issues the Adjudicator objected to are ultimately permitted. However, in the mean time the school is consulting on a revised admissions policy that complies with the decision. This still requires baptism within six months and three years of Mass attendance by parent and child. It also requires that the ‘Candidate has received a Catholic education’, which may break the Admissions Code in giving priority to unnamed feeder schools.

Twyford CofE School has the most extreme admissions policy the Fair Admissions Campaign has seen. It prioritised activities such as ‘Bell ringing’, ‘Flower arranging at church’, ‘Assisting with collection/counting money’, ‘Tea & coffee Rota’, ‘Church cleaning’, ‘Church maintenance’, ‘Parish Magazine Editor’ and ‘Technical support’. After the decision against it, it is now proposing to only require weekly attendance by parent and child for five years.

Grey Coat Hospital gives points to applicants for ‘Parent holding elected office in the church’, ‘Regular practical involvement by a parent in the church’ and ‘Regular involvement in other aspect of church life’. The draft new admissions criteria propose to require baptism, weekly attendance by parent and child for five years, and the parent being a communicant member of the church and on its electoral roll.

Archbishop Blanch previously gave priority for ‘Involvement of the family in Church life beyond simple attendance at weekly worship… 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.’ Now it is proposing to only require both parent and child to attend worship weekly for eight years – an increase from the previous requirement of four.

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘These schools are all amongst the most socio-economically selective in the country. While it is welcome that the schools have revised their admissions policies to be more inclusive and bring them in line with the Admissions Code, the changes made are the bare minimum the schools can get away with. The result is a series of admissions policies that are still highly discriminatory. The result is likely to be that the schools will still be highly socio-economically selective, and still refuse to admit those of other religions or, in particular, of no religion. The rules need to be changed to stop this kind of behaviour.’

Notes

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

Read the Fair Admissions Campaign’s previous articles:

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.

Report sees young people endorse mixed schooling

A new report by academics at Brunel, Cardiff and Kent Universities has seen young people in Hillingdon, Newham and Bradford endorse inclusive schools. The Youth on Religion project, which surveyed more than 10,000 13 to 17-year-olds and interviewed around 160 17 to 18-year-olds, found most young people ‘stress how multi-faith schooling, providing opportunities to get to know other pupils with a range of faith values, is good preparation for later life, including going to university. Mixing at school or college also encourages an interest in diversity and helps to reduce prejudice.’

The report also found that ‘Multi-faith schools do not, however, provide any guarantee of integration. Reports of religious and cultural groups clustering together, and clear indications that pupils are particularly likely to choose best friends from similar faith and cultural backgrounds, emerged from the study. Nonetheless serious clashes between faith groups at school or college seemed rare. Arguments and name-calling were reported but did not appear to be predominantly about religious values, even if religious labels were used as forms of abuse.’

Commenting on the findings, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition, said ‘This research supports the Fair Admissions Campaign’s call for no religious discrimination in admissions to state funded schools. Currently 1.2 million school places are subject to faith-based admissions criteria, the result being mono-faith, mono-ethnic schools.

‘The report also rightly highlights that integrated schooling does not solve all the problems with religious and ethnic segregation. But it’s difficult to know how children from different backgrounds can even be expected to mingle when the very institutions they attend are mono-cultural. This seems to me to present an insurmountable barrier to an integrated society, right from the very start – in fact it is the school endorsing such segregation, sending entirely the wrong message to our young people. By comparison, self-segregation within a school is something that that school can work to overcome with comparative ease.’

Professor Ted Cantle of the iCoCo Foundation commented, ‘Schools should provide natural meeting places for both students and parents from different backgrounds and there can be no better intercultural education than that based on first-hand experience of “others”. Religious selection will often completely undermine these experiences and reinforce prejudices and stereotypes.’

Notes

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

Read the recent news item ‘Ethnically mixed schools help pupils overcome discrimination’: http://fairadmissions.org.uk/ethnically-mixed-schools-help-pupils-overcome-discrimination-2/

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 responds to Mark Hoban MP’s call for even more religious discrimination in admissions

Mark Hoban, Conservative MP for Fareham, yesterday sponsored a short debate (from 11:00 am) in the House of Commons in which he objected to the 50 per cent limit on religious selection imposed on faith Free Schools. Mr Hoban also wrote a blog on the matter for ConservativeHome. Responding to Mr Hoban, education minister Liz Truss MP said that ‘Faith Free Schools must be open and welcoming to the communities around them… Where the Government funds new faith provision, it is right that a proportion of places are available to the whole community, including those of other faiths and none.’

We at the Fair Admissions Campaign were troubled by a number of assertions in Mr Hoban’s blog, which we will quote from and respond to below:

You can imagine how hard it is for me when this Government’s policy actually limits diversity where there is the demand for a new Catholic school.  The Coalition Agreement has killed off the prospect of new Catholic academies and free schools. The Agreement says: “We will ensure that all new Academies follow an inclusive admissions policy. We will work with faith groups to enable more faith schools and facilitate inclusive admissions policies in as many of these schools as possible.” This has been translated into a cap on the proportion of places that can be allocated to children of the faith behind the academy or free school. This cap kicks in when the school is oversubscribed, and it could lead to a Catholic school turning away Catholic parents and pupils.

Actually there are already two Catholic Free Schools – St Michael’s Catholic Secondary School in Cornwall and St Anthony’s School in Gloucestershire. Both were private schools before becoming state schools – it is interesting to note that the Church is less concerned about faith-based admissions requirements when the schools concerned are not state funded. A third Catholic Free School, Trinity Academy in Lambeth, is backed by the Government to open this September, and is proposing to become the first Catholic school with fully open admissions.

But if something has ‘killed off the prospect of new Catholic academies and free schools’, it is the Catholic Church’s unwillingness to open Free Schools with a 50 per cent limit on religious selection. No other organisation has refused to partake in the Free Schools programme because of this requirement.

Socially and ethnically, Catholic schools are very inclusive – they have a higher proportion of pupils from ethnic minorities and deprived areas than the average school, and nor are these exclusively Catholic.  Three in every ten children in Catholic schools are non-Catholics.

In the debate Mr Hoban elaborated on this point slightly, saying that ‘17.3% of children in Catholic secondary schools live in deprived areas, compared with 12.2% nationally.’ This is a statistic sourced from the Catholic Education Service’s annual census, where it compares Catholic and non-Catholic schools in terms of the proportion of pupils living in the 10% most deprived areas, according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI).

This claim fails to consider is that different types of school are in different areas, and Catholic schools in particular are more likely to be in deprived areas. Indeed, if you look at the schools themselves, then you find that 13.3% of Catholic schools are located in the 10% most deprived areas, compared to 8.7% of all other schools.

However, IDACI doesn’t take account of how deprived the pupils’ families are – just how deprived their local areas are. The Fair Admissions Campaign’s map gets around this by instead looking at the number of pupils at each school that are eligible for free school meals, and compares that to the number in the schools’ local area. It finds that Catholic schools take 28 per cent fewer pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, given the areas they are located in. This remains true regardless of whether schools are compared to their immediate vicinity, to across their local authorities, or including neighbouring local authorities.

As for the point that three out of ten pupils at Catholic schools are not Catholic – if this is something to be celebrated, why not support making some degree of inclusivity a requirement for all schools?

No other type of school is required to apply a quota to achieve inclusivity. We haven’t set quotas by social class, gender or ethnicity. Why single out faith?

First of all it is worth clarifying that the 50 per cent cap is not a quota system, nor does the Fair Admissions Campaign advocate a quota system. A quota system is where a certain proportion of places are required to go to those of a different faith. All the cap requires is that 50 per cent of places are selected without consideration of faith. A number of these places are likely to go to Catholics, given the fact that Catholics would likely make up a significant proportion of the local population, and are more likely to apply to the school.

With regard to social class and ethnicity, no state school directly discriminates on the basis of either of these – indeed, to do so would be unlawful. Conversely, thanks to a specific exemption in the Equality Act, faith-based discrimination is widespread, much more so than single-sex schools. While we don’t take a position on single-sex education, we would argue against faith-based admissions policies in particular because of the serious harms they cause in terms of religious, ethnic and socio-economic segregation, and the negative effects they have on community cohesion and psychological well-being.

Why is the Catholic Church concerned about the cap? It is hard to maintain a shared set of values and ethos if half the pupils don’t subscribe to beliefs and practices of the Catholic faith. That is not to say these schools must be exclusively Catholic, but there is a point when the dilution of its Catholicity means a school loses its ethos.

There are many, many Church of England schools that do not religiously discriminate, while still being able to maintain their religious ethos. The London Diocesan Board for Schools, which is encouraging inclusive admissions in its schools, rejects claims that such openness dilutes the schools’ ethos: ‘Their Christian values are written through them like a stick of rock’.

Let me give an example of where that has happened.

In Oxford, parents saw no discernible difference between a joint Catholic/ Church of England school and other local schools – viewing them all as ‘non-Catholic’ schools. Parents voted with their feet, sending their children to other local schools. So, instead, the Catholic Church founded a distinctive Catholic school, St Gregory’s, which is successful and over-subscribed.  The cap thus threatens the ethos which is part of the school’s mission in the first place.  The faith-based admission cap does provide a disincentive to the Catholic Church to set up faith schools.

There are many joint Catholic/Church of England schools that are heavily oversubscribed. The example given is from over a decade ago. That makes it hard to assess the reasons for its closure. But a TES report suggests that despite being praised by Ofsted, the school was closed as part of a reorganisation of Oxford’s schools in order to eliminate middle schools.

Do other faith groups share this concern? If a faith establishes a school that is simply not attractive to parents and children of other or no faith then the cap does not apply. Furthermore, some faiths might be happy to see that dilutive effect work, but the experience of the Catholic Church has not been good. We would have a richer and more diverse set of free schools and academies if the cap were removed. It would give more parents the chance to give their children the education rooted in values that they support – a very Conservative idea.

No other religious group has refused to take part in the free school programme due to the 50 per cent cap. The only other groups to protest the cap were some Jewish groups early on in the programme, but those protests have since stopped.

It is hard to know how it can be said that the experience of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has not been good when it has not experimented with the matter at all. In Scotland there are 370 denominational schools, 366 of which are Catholic. Many of them do not religiously discriminate in admissions, and yet no-one complains about those schools having a diluted ethos.

Finally, it seems perfectly reasonable that a condition of public funding for a school is that it aims to serve its whole local community.

Notes

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

Read Mark Hoban’s blog: http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2014/02/from-markhobanmp-the-cap-on-admissions-to-faith-schools-should-be-scrapped.html

Watch the debate: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=14724

Read the transcript: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140204/halltext/140204h0001.htm#14020454000002

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.