Non-religious Academy’s prioritising pupils from faith primary determined to be lawful

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) has rejected a complaint made by a local campaign group about Tudor Grange Academy in Solihull’s new admissions arrangements. The complaint was made by the Fair Admissions Campaign-affiliated Tudor Grange Admissions Policy campaign after the school, which is not a faith school, decided to give priority to children attending a Church of England primary school with religiously selective admissions policies situated some distance away. The local group and national Campaign have both expressed regret at the decision.

Tudor Primary Academy, St James is the Church primary which is to become a feeder school, and is also sponsored by the secondary. It currently has admissions policies which allow up to 100% of pupils to be selected on the basis of religion. However, since the complaint was made, the primary has determined to drop that criteria and have fully open admissions.

While the Schools Adjudicator found that the consultation on the new admissions criteria had a number of flaws, ultimately she also found that having the primary as a feeder school would not constitute unlawful indirect religious discrimination (which is illegal under the Equality Act 2010). This was because it was considered to be ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, the aim being that ‘Tudor Grange Academy is the sponsor of the feeder school with the aim to ensure that the feeder school will improve so that the quality of education provided and the standards achieved by the pupils will improve.’

Speaking on behalf of the Tudor Grange campaign group, Jenny Woodruff commented, ‘We’re disappointed at the determination. We see this as a missed opportunity to clarify the professional standards needed for consultations to be fair and worthwhile. In terms of the Equality Act, we disagree with the Adjudicator’s assessment that Tudor Grange has a legitimate aim argument in using the admissions system to improve standards at St James. Our view remains that nominating St James as a feeder school would not improve standards at St James, but rather standards can be improved by sharing resources and skills which are in no way dependent on the admissions policy.’

The British Humanist Association (BHA), another supporter of the Fair Admissions Campaign, wrote to the school in February to express concern at the plans. BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘It’s disappointing that this ruling has been lost, and worrying to consider that schools without a religious character might also attempt to religiously discriminate in admissions. However the campaign around this proposal has scored a number of successes already: the school initially proposed to use two religiously selective feeder primaries, but has dropped one while the other has opened up its admissions. So the situation is much improved thanks to the hard work of local parents.

‘Local groups like this are a fantastic force for good in challenging religious selection in school admissions and ensuring a more inclusive system where no child is turned away because their parents are deemed to be of the wrong religion or of no religion. We are confident that this and other groups will keep the pressure up on schools in their neighbourhoods, as will the Fair Admissions Campaign.’

Notes

For further comment please contact BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

Visit the Fair Admissions Campaign website at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/

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 LecturersBritish 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 AssociationLiberal Youth, the Local Schools NetworkRichmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.