New research looking at how different types of school affect opportunities for children from poorer families has found faith schools to be a major source of socio-economic disadvantage and segregation in England’s state funded school system.
Statistical analysis released today by the education data analyst website SchoolDash reveals that, overall, school admission policies are playing ‘a greater part than local [residential] deprivation in the uneven distribution of poorer pupils’ between schools. The analysis also finds that while many faith schools are disproportionately located in poorer areas, they tend to cream skim and cater to children from more affluent families within those areas and ‘specifically those [schools] affiliated with Roman Catholicism and the small number associated with various non-Christian faiths.’
The research finds the Church of England school sector to be more inclusive than most other types of faith school, but less socio-economically inclusive than non-faith schools. The researchers find however that C of E schools tend to be ‘located in areas of low deprivation’ to begin with. Over 95% of state funded faith schools in England are sponsored by either the Church of England or Catholic Church.
Fair Admissions Campaign Steering Group member and Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘Religious selection by popular faith schools incentivises families to engage in religious cheating, artificially boosts the social and ability profile of the schools’ pupils, and disadvantages those from deprived backgrounds. Most faith schools were originally set up to educate the disadvantaged. It is therefore highly embarrassing that many should encourage religious dishonesty and have become so elitist. It is time for religious discrimination by state funded faith schools to be phased out.’
The latest analysis reinforces research from the Fair Admissions Campaign in 2013 that found a strong relationship between religious selection of pupils by faith schools and the schools having more socio-economically exclusive intakes. Non-religiously selective faith schools were found to admit 1% fewer children entitled to free schools meals than would be expected if they admitted local children. Faith schools with a religiously selective admission policy however typically admitted 30% fewer such children. Entitlement to free school meals is a key indicator of deprivation used by government. There is a variable approach to religious selection within the C of E sector, while almost all Roman Catholic schools in England will select all pupils by faith if sufficiently oversubscribed.
Socio-economic selection due to religious selection
The Fair Admissions Campaign’s December 2013 research showing a correlation between religious and socio-economic selection can be found at the ‘Overall averages’ page at https://fairadmissions.org.uk/map/. A briefing is also available at https://fairadmissions.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Fair-Admissions-Campaign-map-in-depth-briefing.pdf.
A November 2012 YouGov survey commissioned by The Sutton Trust looked at strategies that parents used to try and get their child into a better school, and found that 6% of parents with children at a state funded school admitted to attending church services, when they did not previously, so that their child could go to a church school. For parents from socio-economic group A this figure rose to 10%. A quarter of pupil places at state funded schools in England and Wales are at faith schools, suggesting a significant proportion at faith schools have been won on the basis of religious cheating.
Worryingly, evidence has emerged that suggests baptism could also be being misused. The Pastoral Research Centre released data in Jan 2014 showing that while the number of baptisms of children under the age of one in England and Wales was in long term decline, the number of baptisms of those aged over one had risen dramatically over the previous decade. The change is consistent with parents having children baptised as their child nears school age, as part of a strategy to increase their chance of being admitted to a popular Catholic school.
Most Church Schools were set up to educate the disadvantaged
Serving the better-heeled in their communities is a distortion to the original mission of most Church schools. The National Society, which created most Anglican schools, was established to provide schools for children from poor families. Similarly the precursor to the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales was named the ‘Catholic Poor School Committee’.