The Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) has this week published a new report on faith-based discrimination in primary school admissions in the London Borough of Richmond. The report reveals the significant impact that faith-based admissions to local church primary schools has on restricting the choices available to non-churchgoing parents and highlights geographical areas where problems around accessing schools are most severe. RISC is affiliated to the Fair Admissions Campaign, which it helped to co-launch in June.
The publication of the report has provided RISC with an opportunity to renew its call for inclusive admissions and to keep the issue high on the local political agenda and it comes hard on the heels of a recent story of a four year old in Twickenham with no school place at all. The report has been sent to local media, politicians, schools and Dioceses and it includes suggestions on how religiously selective schools can be made more inclusive by following other borough faith schools.
For example, several local faith schools (both Anglican and Roman Catholic) have placed a limit on the amount of pupils they select on religious grounds (the local Anglican Diocese recommends that its schools do not select more than 50% of pupils by faith) and some schools ensure that places allotted to children without recourse to religion are made a higher priority. Meanwhile, the newly opened St Mary’s Hampton Church of England primary has decided not to select any pupils by faith – it has embraced the fully open admissions policy that RISC has been calling for.
RISC spokesman, Jeremy Rodell said: ‘The report is a look at the facts about faith-based discrimination at local primary schools. A third of all primary places are at the sixteen local church schools. Thirteen of them were over-subscribed this year. The result was that, on average, 80% of their places were offered to children selected on the basis of their parents’ religious practice. At the same time, most of the community schools were also over-subscribed. The combined effect was that churchgoing parents had a much wider choice than anyone else, and some parents were not offered a Reception place at a reasonable distance from home. We think that’s unfair, especially as all the schools are state-funded.
‘Our suggestions for improvement are intended to make a constructive contribution to alleviating the pressure. They do not meet RISC’s ultimate aim of full inclusivity. But they are all simple steps school governing bodies can take if they choose to, without changing their schools’ status or ethos. We also hope that Richmond Council will acknowledge the general pressure on primary school places and actively encourage governing bodies to do the right thing.’