Fair Admissions Campaign gives cautious welcome to comments from new CofE chief education officer suggesting move towards inclusivity

The Fair Admissions Campaign has cautiously welcomed comments from Nigel Genders, the incoming Chief Education Officer of the Church of England, suggesting that many new CofE schools will be fully inclusive in their admissions policies. While the moves are welcome, the Campaign has suggested that the Church needs to do more to ensure that all new schools are fully open and, more significantly, that admissions policies are similarly opened up in existing schools.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Genders has said that ‘most of the new schools that the Church of England has provided over recent years have all been entirely open admissions policies so that they would serve their local community. They have been built for that particular purpose… We’re now responding to pressure on pupil places and wanting to serve local areas with the high quality of education that our schools provide. It’s no surprise that they will become more open in their admissions policies to enable them to do so.’ Mr Genders, who becomes Chief Education Officer in September, cited four schools that opened in London last year that do not religiously select, and the fact that three more opening this September will be similarly open.

However, other new Church schools are less inclusive. Free Schools are not allowed to select more than half of their places on the basis of faith. The Fair Admissions Campaign can identify five which are fully inclusive, namely St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in Camden, St Mary’s Hampton Church of England Primary School in Richmond, Walthamstow Primary Academy, Cornerstone CofE Primary School in Hampshire and Meridian Water Primary School in Enfield are or will be fully open.

But seven CofE Free Schools select the maximum 50% permitted, namely Becket Keys Church of England School in Essex, Barrow 1618 Free School in Shropshire, the King’s School in Hove, University Cathedral Free School in Chester, Didsbury CE Free School in Manchester, St Mary’s Church of England Primary School in Ealing and Fulham Boys School. And William Perkin Church of England High School in Ealing, which opened last year with a fully inclusive admissions policy and is often cited as a success story on this front, has now moved away from inclusivity to instead give priority for some places to children attending a fully religiously selective Church primary.

Further afield, the Green School for Boys in Hounslow is also currently proposed to open, and it too wants to select 50% of pupils on the basis of faith. The Diocese of London wants all of its new schools to be fully open, so it is disappointing that four of them are not. Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) contacted the school and Diocese about this inconsistency, and received little support from either party.

An analysis by the Campaign of the admissions policies of all Church of England secondary schools has found that just over half of places at them are not subject to religious selection criteria. But if we ignore CofE schools that are not fully in control of their own admissions policies, then under a third of places are open.

Jeremy Rodell, chair of RISC, commented, ‘Nigel Genders’ comments on inclusive admissions to new church of England Schools statement is a step in the right direction. However, in practice the church continues to set up new non-inclusive schools, such as The Green School for Boys in Hounslow, which will be 50% faith-based – the maximum allowed for a free school. And, if inclusivity is a good thing, as Nigel Genders clearly believes it is, why are dioceses apparently doing nothing to pressurise governing bodies at their schools with high levels of faith-based selection to open up and serve the whole of their communities? In Richmond & Twickenham, for example, there are several Anglican primary schools with highly discriminatory admissions policies.’

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, Chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive education, commented, ‘Any move to make schools more inclusive is to be welcomed – especially as turning away children deemed to be of “the wrong faith” at the school-gate gives a terrible message about an “us-and-them society” to both the excluded children and to those who are admitted. But words have to be followed up with actions, and the key test is whether discrimination ceases to be associated with the admission policy of faith schools.’

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome Nigel Genders’ comments that more Church of England schools will be open in their admissions policies, but would encourage the Church of England to move to also reduce religious selection in its existing schools, which comprise the vast majority of the whole. Some of these schools can be extremely selective, giving priority to pupils on the basis of activities such as flower arranging, church cleaning and so on. When the Bishop of Oxford took on the role of Chair of the Church of England Board of Education in 2011, he said he wanted no school to select more than 10% of pupils on the basis of faith. We hope that Nigel Genders will similarly advocate for much more inclusivity.’


For further information or comment please contact Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071 or email info@fairadmissions.org.uk.

Read Nigel Genders’ comments in The Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10890470/Selection-by-faith-axed-at-new-wave-of-Anglican-schools.html

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.