Education Minister’s choice of school highlights social exclusion at faith schools

The Fair Admissions Campaign has today highlighted that the Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, is to send his child to one of the most socially exclusive state schools in the country. Mr Gove’s choice of school, The Grey Coat Hospital School in Westminster, was made known in today’s Daily Telegraph.

Research by the Fair Admissions Campaign in December revealed that The Grey Coat Hospital School is in the 1% least socio-economically inclusive secondary schools in England. Only 14% of the school’s pupils are entitled to free schools meals (a government indicator of deprivation), whereas 33% would be expected to if it admitted local children. Similarly, 48% would be expected to speak English as an additional language if it admitted local children, where only 25% of the school’s pupils do.

The heavily oversubscribed Church of England school priorities 72% of its places on religious grounds and gives applicants extra points in its admissions policy to children who have a ‘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 Office of the Schools Adjudicator ruled against the school’s admissions policy in November, deciding that this constituted requiring practical support for the Church (which is disallowed) and also as single parent families were not as able to take part in all of extra Church activities that the school rewarded. Grey Coat is now consulting on a new admissions policy that removes these criteria but still proposes to show preference to applicants for being baptised, weekly Church attendance by a parent and the child for five years, as well as a parent being a communicant member of the Church and on its electoral roll.

More generally the Campaign’s research also found a strong correlation between how religiously selective a faith school is and the inclusivity of its intake. Church of England schools that do not select pupils by faith when oversubscribed admitted 1% fewer children entitled to free schools meals than lived locally. In contrast, those schools prepared to select all pupils by faith when oversubscribed admitted 35% fewer children entitled to free schools meals than lived locally.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘The Education Minister’s choice of school for his child helps draw attention to the level of socio-economic exclusivity at religiously selective schools. Schools such as Grey Coat Hospital are using complex admissions policies to deny the poorest pupils a chance to receive an academically strong education, thereby exacerbating existing divisions. Many people of faith are appalled that schools that should focus on the poor have become so elitist.’

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 socio-economic bias at religiously selective schools was also 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.