The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been reported as telling The Times that ‘What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good. There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests… It is not necessary to select to get a really good school. There are unbelievably brilliant schools that are entirely open to all applicants without selection criteria apart from residence, where you live, and which produce staggeringly good results. It’s a question of — and you can point to them all over the place — it’s a question of outstanding leadership.’
However, Lambeth Palace has subsequently rebutted the story, and put out a statement quoting the Archbishop as saying that ‘I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as dissenting from this policy.’
The British Humanist Association (BHA), Accord Coalition for inclusive education and Professor Ted Cantle, and the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) are on the steering group of the Fair Admissions Campaign.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Religious selection in admissions segregates pupils on the basis of their parents’ beliefs and on socio-economic and ethnic grounds. Any move to end it must be welcome. Unfortunately, however, this is not the first time in recent years that representatives of the Church have been reported as saying one thing only for this to later be rebutted or not translated into reality. There have been promises, for example, of at least 25% inclusivity in 2006, 90% inclusivity in 2011 and 50% inclusivity in London. Ongoing research by the Fair Admissions Campaign shows that a huge number of Church schools have admissions criteria that are more restrictive than this, frequently allowing for the selection of every single pupil on the basis of faith. If the Church of England now joins the campaign to repeal the laws allowing religious discrimination, of course that will be a significant change – but it appears that will not be the case.’
Rabbi Dr Romain commented, ‘That the Archbishop has spoken about the way Church schools have up to now selected in their admission policies and the need for this to change – implying surely that the current situation is to be regretted – is a step forward, although it is also regrettable that the implications of those comments have largely been overridden. The way religiously selective schools discriminate in their admission policies is highly dubious, both morally and religiously, for not only do they divide children from one another, but a faith school that is based on discrimination has little religious credibility.’
Professor Ted Cantle commented, ‘Justin Welby’s comments in The Times make his views views clear – and he is right to support a move away from faith-based selection. I think his comments show the contradiction between the faith’s ideals and the practice of the Church.’
Jeremy Rodell, spokesperson for RISC said ‘To take the example of the London Borough of Richmond: all eight of the Voluntary Aided Anglican primaries with reception classes have admissions policies involving faith-based selection. In four of them the result is a high level of discrimination against children whose parents are not practising Anglicans. Despite Vince Cable, the MP for Twickenham, urging them to be more “community minded”, and our requests for action to both the London and Southwark Dioceses and directly to all the schools, so far not one has decided to change its policy as far as we know. Yet the Church appoints the majority of the governors.’
For further comment please contact BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal on 07738 435 059 or Accord Coalition Chair Jonathan Romain on 07770 722 893 or email email@example.com. For further information please contact Accord Coalition Coordinator Paul Pettinger on 020 7324 3071.
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.