A Church of England school in Kingston upon Thames has decided that it will no longer select pupils on the grounds of faith. As of next year, St Luke’s Primary School will prioritise children based on their proximity to the school and not on the church attendance of their parents as was previously the case. The Fair Admissions Campaign has welcomed the move and hopes it will set a precedent for other ‘faith’ schools to follow.
The change in policy was initiated by local vicar Father Martin Hislop, who described himself as being ‘very uncomfortable with aspects of the admissions criteria for the school’. He claimed that cynicism surrounding the requirement to attend church was having a negative impact on the atmosphere at the school, and bemoaned the fact that ‘some parishioners feel that there are those who attend church only to gain admission for their children’.
Attending church specifically to gain a place at a popular Church school has been the subject of much discussion in the media in recent weeks and this move comes in the midst of growing calls for an end to faith-based selection in schools. Indeed, only earlier this month 20 members of the Church of England issued an open letter urging the Church to encourage all its schools to move towards inclusive admissions arrangements. It also seems that St Luke’s is not the only school looking into such a change, as there are reports that similar proposals have been made by Gonerby Hill Foot Church of England Primary School in Lincolnshire.
St Luke’s’ decision, made in consultation with both the Diocese of Southwark and the local community, has long been called for by the Kingston Fair Admissions group who campaign in favour of more inclusive schools in the area. Guy Shirley, one of the group’s co-ordinators, described the change as ‘good for the community as a whole’ and called on the other local religiously-selective schools to ‘follow the path that St Luke’s has paved’.
Commenting on the move, Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, said, ‘The inclusive policy being adopted by St Luke’s is a welcome development that addresses the growing concern about religious discrimination in the educational system. Hopefully it will show that it is possible to have a religious ethos without religious segregation’.
BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson added, ‘This is a really positive step towards ending the unfair practice of selecting children on the basis of their parent’s religion and we hope schools around the country will take note. Discrimination of this kind divides communities and has absolutely no place in our society’.
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Read the proposed changes to St Luke’s Primary School’s admissions policy here: http://www.stlukes.kingston.sch.uk/news/?pid=3&nid=2&storyid=34
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.