New findings have revealed that a group of Church of England Dioceses have embraced calls for change from Anglican clergy who have recommended that their schools move away from selecting any pupils by faith. The research, carried out by the Fair Admissions Campaign member group the Accord Coalition, found 3 of the Church’s Dioceses now advocate that their schools do not select pupils on religious grounds when oversubscribed. The Dioceses are Oxford, Lincoln and Leicester.
In addition, the Dioceses of London and Chichester were found to recommend that new schools should not select by faith. The Diocese of London also recommends that its existing schools do not select more than half of pupils by faith, while Chester and Southwark recommend their schools should admit some children without recourse to faith, but do not specify a limit. However, analysis from the Campaign shows a significant mismatch between the inclusive ambitions of most the Dioceses and the policies being implemented by their schools on the ground.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said ‘Many Anglican schools have yet to act on the more inclusive policies being advocated by their own Diocese, so we welcome the new direction, but urge that its implementation be speeded up. Church authorities should demonstrate their words will be followed by action.’
The Rev Stephen Terry, who co-organised an open letter published at Easter from 20 members of the Church calling for its schools to move away from selecting pupils by faith, welcomed the news. He said ‘Church of England schools should be inclusive, as an expression of the warmth and generosity of the Church’s mission to the whole community. The lead being provided by these Dioceses should be encouraged and supported.
‘In 2013 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that it was not necessary to select by faith to get a really good school. The inclusive approaches of the Dioceses reaffirm his point and should motivate local schools to change, and inspire others throughout the country.’
Dioceses have an important role to play in school admission arrangements. When state funded Church of England schools determine their own admissions policy, they must have regard to any Diocesan guidance when setting faith based criteria, as the statutory School Admissions Code sets out. A wide range of approaches are currently pursued within the Church of England sector.
Research in 2013 from the Fair Admissions Campaign found that the average proportion of pupil places that could be allotted by faith in the oversubscription criteria of Church of England secondary schools was 49.7%. In contrast, only 10.9% of places at the growing number of generically ‘Christian’ schools were apportioned by faith. Currently, almost all pupil places at state funded Methodist schools and all places at state funded United Reformed Church schools are rewarded without recourse to religion.
The latest research found some Dioceses were helping to advance inclusivity in other, more subtle ways. The Diocese of Chester provides schools with template admissions policies, thereby helping prevent schools inadvertently breaching the Admissions Code. The templates suggest schools give highest priority to children in care regardless of faith (many faith schools admit co-religionists before considering children who are in care and not of the faith) and that siblings should be admitted before those that meet church worship criteria, so helping keep families together in the same school.
The table below sets out how religiously selective are the secondary schools in each of the Dioceses found to be advocating their schools operate open or partly open admission arrangements. It shows that, while the secondary schools in the Dioceses of Leicester have become almost entirely open, there is still a large mismatch between the stated aims of the other Dioceses and reality. Most of the Dioceses are not yet bringing to bear the influence they hold over their school’s ability to religiously select.
|Number of secondary schools
|% of places allocated by faith in school admission policies
|Diocese of London
|Diocese of Lincoln
|Diocese of Southwark
|Diocese of Chichester
|Diocese of Oxford
|Diocese of Leicester
Last year the incoming Chief Education Officer of the Church of England, the Rev Nigel Genders, suggested many new C of E schools opening would be fully inclusive in their admissions policies. The Fair Admissions Campaign investigated the claim and found a mixture of approaches being pursued. Recently opened schools included the Green School for Boys in Hounslow, St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Ealing and Fulham Boys School (all located in the Diocese of London), and the the King’s School in Hove (located in the Diocese of Chichester). All five schools have opted to select up to 50% of pupils by faith in their oversubscription criteria – despite both Dioceses stating they want new schools to be fully non-religiously selective.