The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CES) has today published their 2013 Census of Catholic schools in England and Wales. In their associated press release the CES has claimed that the ‘data shows that Catholic schools in England serve more disadvantaged pupils’, as ‘18.4% of pupils in Catholic primary schools are from some of the most deprived areas, compared to only 13.8% nationally. Catholic secondary schools follow a similar trend. 17.3% of pupils are coming from some of the most socially deprived areas with a national figure of 12.2%.’ The Fair Admissions Campaign has responded by pointing out that the CES’s comparison is fundamentally flawed.
While it may be the case that pupils at Catholic schools are more likely to come from deprived areas than the national average, this simply reflects the fact that Catholic schools are more likely to be in deprived inner city areas than the average school. It does not attempt to assess how deprived the individual pupils are – it could well be that the pupils at Catholic schools are from the wealthier families within the deprived areas.
Indeed, that this is the case becomes apparent if you look at the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals at Catholic schools and compare this to their local areas. If we do this, we see that comprehensive Catholic schools typically admit 28% fewer pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected. In contrast, comprehensive schools with no religious character admit 5% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected.
Tomorrow the Fair Admissions Campaign is launching its map which will reveal how inclusive different schools are in terms of religious selection, free school meal eligibility and English as an additional language, when compared to their local areas.
British Humanist Association Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘State funded faith schools remain the principal source and cause of discrimination and selection within our school system. Any objective and intelligent reading of the figures bears this out.’
Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Faith schools should be supporting the poor and championing the vulnerable. The massive religious embarrassment that they are actually skewed towards serving the affluent is now being compounded by the Catholic Education Service who would have us think otherwise.’
Jeremy Rodell from Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign said ‘Our analysis of local primary schools underlines the Fair Admissions Campaign’s conclusions. On average, 10% of all borough primary pupils are eligible for free school meals, but the average for the seven Catholic primaries is only 4%. Five of them are 100% Catholic in their intake, with an average of over 90%. If our area is anything to go by, the extreme faith-based selection practised by state-funded Catholic schools is not only unfair in principle, but it disproportionately disadvantages children who are already disadvantaged.’
For further comment please contact Accord Coalition Chair Jonathan Romain on 07770 722 893, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 24 8596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.