The last edition of The Sunday Telegraph ran a piece (below) highlighting new Church of England Schools in London that are opting not to select pupils on religious grounds when oversubscribed. They join the large number of Voluntary Controlled faith schools (which have their admissions policy set by their local authority for education) that already do not select children according to faith, thereby further showing schools do not need to discriminate to be faith schools. We applaud these institutions for deciding to be community minded.
No places for churchgoers in newly-opened faith schools
A new generation of Anglican schools is being opened with no reserved places for churchgoers to prevent desks being filled by children from pushy middle-class families.
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor 28 Jul 2013
The Church of England is backing the creation of “inclusive” schools that control their own admissions but give equal priority to non-believers, Anglicans and children from other faiths.
Two new schools will be opened in September with a 100 per cent “open entry” policy to create a more socially-balanced intake. At least nine others run along similar lines are in the pipeline.
Church leaders also hope that existing schools will amend their admissions rules to limit the number of reserved places for Christians.
The reforms – centred on new schools in London – were seized upon by groups who oppose selection by faith, saying it proved that “religious discrimination” was increasingly seen as an outmoded policy.
But it is likely to anger religious groups who have opposed previous attempts to limit the number of believers admitted to faith schools.
Two years ago, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Reverend John Pritchard, was heavily criticised after calling on head teachers to reserve no more than one-in-10 places at CofE schools to practising Anglicans.
However, the latest move goes even further by declaring that no Anglicans should be given priority in the admissions process.
It comes amid concerns over “pew-jumping” middle-class parents who get their children christened or volunteer at church just to secure places at sought-after faith schools.
Liz Wolverson, director of school support services for the London Diocesan Board for Schools, which is behind the policy, said: “We’re not big fans of people filling churches on Sunday just so they can get their children into school. We want people to come to church, but for the right reasons.
“We feel that it is really important to go back to our roots. We think we should be there to serve the community, so we’re really encouraging schools to move towards [open admissions].
“Some have embraced it fully and don’t have any admissions criteria other than making the nearest children the priority.”
Miss Wolverson, who is also chief executive of the LDBS Academies Trust, a newly-established company set up to maintain and develop new Anglican schools, denied that open entry would dilute schools’ religious ethos.
“Their Christian values are written through them like a stick of rock,” she said.
“But when you have pockets of London where 99 per cent are, say, Bangladeshi, then it’s right that our schools reflect that community.”
The Government is encouraging the opening of new schools through its “free schools” policy – creating state-funded institutions that are run by parents, teachers, charities and faith groups independent of local authority control.
It has welcomed bids from religious organisations but ruled that they can only set aside 50 per cent of places for believers.
The London Diocesan Board for Schools is backing the creation of new Anglican free schools in the capital but making it clear that it favours no reserved places for Christian families.
One free school – St Luke’s primary in Camden – was opened in 2011, admitting pupils who lived closest to the school, irrespective of faith.
In September, William Perkin CofE high, Ealing, will also open with priority given to pupils who live nearest the gates. A second school, St Mary’s Hampton CofE primary, Hampton, will use a lottery-style system to effectively pick applicants at random whatever their faith.
Almost all other faith-based free schools select along religious lines.
In a further disclosure, it emerged that the London Diocesan Board for Schools has written to other existing Anglican schools in the capital urging them to limit CofE admissions to no more than 50 per cent.
Existing faith schools are either voluntary-aided – with freedom to run their own entry policies – or voluntary-controlled – meaning they follow local council admissions rules and do no select along faith lines.
A CofE spokesman said: “Admissions policies vary in different types of church schools.”
A spokesman for the Accord Coalition, a campaign group set up to oppose selection by faith, said: “Selecting pupils on religious grounds is discriminatory and increases ethnic and religious segregation. We commend those faith schools that are choosing to turn away from selecting any children by faith.
“Schools should assume responsibility for the wider well-being of their neighbourhood, not look to serve their own.”