Is your child unable to get into their nearest school, or the best school in the area, purely because you are of the ‘wrong’ religion or of no religion?
Or have you been forced to fake or overstate your religion – attending church, perhaps, when you otherwise wouldn’t – in order to get your son or daughter into that school?
This situation is clearly unfair, and that’s what we’re here to challenge.
Unfortunately, UK law allows state-funded faith schools that are over-subscribed to select pupils by religion, in almost all cases for up to 100% of their places. They are allowed to do this thanks to specific exemptions from the law on discrimination in the Equality Act 2010, which would otherwise make this discrimination unlawful. Other schools cannot select pupils in this manner.
What you can do
If you are in this unhappy position, there are several things you can do that may help:
- Please do get in touch with us: we would like to try to help. We also need as many examples as possible of what is going wrong to inform our campaign, and we may be able to highlight your case (anonymously if you wish) in our campaigning. We will help you write to your local councillors, your MP and your newspaper in order to tell more people what is happening and raise the profile of the issue. We’ve got advice on how to do this. (For example, if the school is a Voluntary Controlled school, then the Council actually sets the admissions policies, so is in fact directly responsible!)
- You should also use our advice to check if the school’s admissions policy is compliant with the Government’s School Admissions Code – a set of rules that all state funded schools must follow. If this is not the case, you should make a complaint to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator and get the policy changed – again, we can help with this. Faith schools may be able to select pupils by religion but they still have to comply with the Code. This means that, for example, their criteria must be ‘fair, clear and objective’. In England they cannot select parents based on ‘any practical or financial support’ given ‘to the school or any associated organisation, including any religious authority’, and in Wales they cannot ‘Give higher priority to children whose parents are more able or willing to support the ethos of the school or to support the school financially or in some other way’.
- Please get involved in the Fair Admissions Campaign, in order to prevent this from happening to anyone else. You can help by setting up a new local campaign, helping us map all state funded school admissions policies or by complaining to the schools adjudicator about any schools you think may be in breach of the School Admissions Code.
Schools that are not designated as faith schools and faith schools that are not over-subscribed are not allowed to apply religious selection (directly or indirectly). And religious Free Schools can only select up to 50% of their intake with reference to religion. If you find evidence of any school selecting pupils when the law says it shouldn’t, then please do let us know.
We know that in some places there is intense competition for school places and inevitably many parents and carers are disappointed and frustrated when their children are unable to get into the school they want. Unfortunately we can only consider taking up cases where you have been unfairly discriminated against on the basis of religion or belief (including lack of religion or belief).