On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, the High Court heard submissions as to whether one of the country’s leading state secondary schools has been selecting its pupils on ethnic and socio-economic grounds in its admissions policy. After what is believed to be the only time a school has been found to discriminate on both these grounds, the London Oratory School in west London was ordered to rewrite its admissions criteria by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) last year, a decision which it has chosen to judicially review. Mr Justice Cobb, who presided over the hearing, is expected to announce a decision over the next few weeks. The British Humanist Association (BHA), a supporting group of the Fair Admissions Campaign, was an objector in the case that prompted the OSA’s decision and is an interested party in the ongoing legal proceedings.
In a damning report of the London Oratory’s admissions policy, the watchdog found a total of 105 breaches of the Schools Admissions Code, which all state schools are obliged to follow. The breaches included: giving priority to pupils whose parents take part in church activities such as flower arranging and choir singing; favouring children baptised before six months old; taking into account the religious practice of both parents instead of just one; and failing to allow for the admittance of pupils with non-religious parents, even if the school is not oversubscribed.
The school applied for a judicial review of the decision in October last year. This week’s court date came nearly two years after the BHA submitted the original complaint to the adjudicator in May 2013.
BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson commented, ‘The degree to which the London Oratory’s admissions criteria have both ethnically and socio-economically skewed its intake is appalling, and the Schools Adjudicator was right to find against it. It is amongst the ten most socio-economically selective state secondary schools in the country, taking just 6% of pupils eligible for school meals compared to 36% locally. We hope the High Court will uphold the adjudicator’s decision.’
For further information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BHA first complained about the school’s admissions policy in May 2013. In August 2013 the OSA issued a decision upholding the complaint and ruling against the school, but the school threatened to judicially review, and in January 2014 the OSA found an inconsequential error in its report, leading to the decision being quashed. The new determination made in July 2014, which also looked at the school’s latest policy, again found against the school, and on a much more comprehensive basis than before.
Read the OSA’s decision from July 2014: 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 Lecturers, British 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 Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.