In 2011-2012, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) fought a battle for fair admissions at a new 150 pupil/year Catholic secondary in Twickenham. The battle ended in the High Court, where RISC and the British Humanist Association obtained a judicial review of the local council’s decision to provide a valuable site for the Voluntary Aided (VA) Catholic schools, rather than seeking applications for a Free School/Academy, which is supposed to be the default structure for new schools. That was important because new faith-based Free Schools/Academies can ‘only’ have up to 50% faith-based selection. The Diocese insisted on a VA structure because they wanted up to 100% faith-based selection, and the 50% limit does not apply to VA schools. Unfortunately the Department for Education intervened to support the Council’s position and the case was lost.
The VA schools opened in September 2013. As expected, they are over-subscribed and the secondary is effectively closed to the 90% of local children whose parents are not Catholics, even if they live across the road. It is, of course, state-funded.
RISC predicted back in 2012 that, having opened as VA in 2013, the school would convert to Academy status shortly afterwards, securing even more state money, while retaining its discriminatory admissions. It can get away with that because an existing (as opposed to new) VA school that converts to an Academy is allowed to keep its admissions policy. In fact RISC obtained under a Freedom of Information request a Department for Education document dated December 2011 implying the Diocese and the DfE planned to use this loophole all along.
That is now happening. The school is currently consulting on a proposal to switch to an academy. And the local press has picked up the issue:
For further information or comment please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 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.