A group of parents who opposed the decision of a Church of England school in Kingston upon Thames to end selection by religion have failed in their attempt to reinstate faith-based admissions criteria. St Luke’s Primary School announced in April this year that they would no longer admit children on the basis of the church attendance of their parents, after the local vicar raised concerns about parents only attending his services in order to get their children into school. However, a group of parents sought to challenge the change through an objection to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA), but that objection has now been quashed. The Fair Admissions Campaign (FAC) has welcomed the OSA’s decision and hopes it will encourage more schools to become similarly inclusive.
Ever since making the announcement, St Luke’s has become the subject of significant media attention, and its governor and local vicar Father Martin Hislop has been vocal both in his uneasiness about religious selection and in his desire to ensure that Church schools are run to best serve their local communities. Indeed, the school’s announcement came just a few weeks after 20 prominent members of the Church of England published an open letter calling for a move towards less faith-based selection and more inclusive admissions arrangements.
Despite this, the objecting parents claimed that the decision was ‘unfair on those who live further from the school’ and said that the governing body had failed both to consult widely enough and to properly consider alternative proposals that had been put forward. However, information provided to the Adjudicator by the school confirmed that the local diocese, the local authority, other local schools, and the local community had all been part of an extensive and transparent consultation process. The OSA therefore decided not to uphold the parents’ objection, concluding that ‘the governing body met the requirements of the [School Admissions] Code’ when setting the new arrangements.
Reacting to the news, coordinator of the local Kingston Fair Admissions group, Guy Shirley, said ‘We’re very pleased, but not surprised, that the Adjudicator has ruled in favour of the governors of St Luke’s, who were both fair and diligent in how they conducted their consultation. The vast majority of people in Kingston recognise that the move represents a change for the good, and we’ll continue to campaign for more schools in the area to follow the example set by St Luke’s’.
Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, added ‘We welcomed St Luke’s’ decision to end religious selection when it was first announced, and we’re happy that the change is set to go ahead. This may only be one school, but the message it sends about eradicating religious discrimination in the education system is an important one and a powerful one.’
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Read the OSA’s full determination on the parents’ objection: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/456209/ADA2905_St_Lukes_Primary_School_Kingston_26Aug15.pdf
Read the FAC’s previous news item on this story: https://fairadmissions.org.uk/church-of-england-school-in-kingston-to-scrap-discriminatory-admissions-policy/
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.