High profile ‘faith’ schools change admissions policies to comply with the law

Following decisions against them by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, a number of high profile state-funded ‘faith’ schools are now consulting on new admissions policies which remove discriminatory aspects that were found to be in breach of the School Admissions Code (which all schools must follow). The London Oratory School in Fulham, Twyford Church of England High School in Ealing, Grey Coat Hospital School in Westminster and Archbishop Blanch CofE VA School in Liverpool were all found to have admissions policies that required financial or practical support for the Church. The Fair Admissions Campaign has welcomed the changes, but has expressed concern at the remaining high degrees of religious selection.

The London Oratory School’s admissions policy was found in ten different places to break the Code, including in having a ‘Catholic service criterion’, which prioritised parents on the basis of issues such as flower arranging. The school has threatened to judicially review the decision, leading to the decision frustratingly being quashed on a technicality. As a result, it may yet be the case that some of the issues the Adjudicator objected to are ultimately permitted. However, in the mean time the school is consulting on a revised admissions policy that complies with the decision. This still requires baptism within six months and three years of Mass attendance by parent and child. It also requires that the ‘Candidate has received a Catholic education’, which may break the Admissions Code in giving priority to unnamed feeder schools.

Twyford CofE School has the most extreme admissions policy the Fair Admissions Campaign has seen. It prioritised activities such as ‘Bell ringing’, ‘Flower arranging at church’, ‘Assisting with collection/counting money’, ‘Tea & coffee Rota’, ‘Church cleaning’, ‘Church maintenance’, ‘Parish Magazine Editor’ and ‘Technical support’. After the decision against it, it is now proposing to only require weekly attendance by parent and child for five years.

Grey Coat Hospital gives points to applicants for ‘Parent holding elected office in the church’, ‘Regular practical involvement by a parent in the church’ and ‘Regular involvement in other aspect of church life’. The draft new admissions criteria propose to require baptism, weekly attendance by parent and child for five years, and the parent being a communicant member of the church and on its electoral roll.

Archbishop Blanch previously gave priority for ‘Involvement of the family in Church life beyond simple attendance at weekly worship… e.g. certificate of reception into the church, baptism, communion and confirmation certificates. Other evidence could include altar server certificates, or letters of support from Sunday School or Children’s Liturgy etc.’ Now it is proposing to only require both parent and child to attend worship weekly for eight years – an increase from the previous requirement of four.

Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Association, commented, ‘These schools are all amongst the most socio-economically selective in the country. While it is welcome that the schools have revised their admissions policies to be more inclusive and bring them in line with the Admissions Code, the changes made are the bare minimum the schools can get away with. The result is a series of admissions policies that are still highly discriminatory. The result is likely to be that the schools will still be highly socio-economically selective, and still refuse to admit those of other religions or, in particular, of no religion. The rules need to be changed to stop this kind of behaviour.’


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

Read the Fair Admissions Campaign’s previous articles:

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.