Church adopts 'three-tier' discrimination for school admissions

By staff writers
17 Jan 2007

The Church of England has adopted a 'three-tier' discimination policy, aimed at continuing to give preferential treatment in school admissions for those linked to churches.

The Church says that it is attempting to avoid policies that look like “covert social selection”. Or as the Religion Correspondent for the Times, Ruth Gledhill puts it, to "prevent its high-performing church schools from sorting the middle-class from the chavs."

The new system has already been condemned and is likely to be rejected by some of the most oversubscribed schools.

It will also be criticised for continuing to favour those linked to churches, despite the fact that the schools are almost completely publicly funded.

Christians will also suggest that by continuing to prioritise those connected to churches, church schools are acting like a self-interested club, and undermining their claim to be 'Christian', which should be about inclusion.

Under the new three-tier approach, children will no longer be awarded a place based on simple church attendance. Instead, they will be classed as “known to the church”, “attached to the church” or “at the heart of the church”.

Some critics said that the system is equally — if not even more — open to abuse, opening the door to pushy parents who would stop at nothing to get their vicar to upgrade them from “attached” to “at the heart of the church”.

The points and other admissions procedures have also been condemned out of fear that they can be manipulated, reports the Times.

The guidelines recommend that where most applicants turn out to be at the “heart of the church”, the school will have to adopt a “tie-breaker” using proximity or residence or a lottery procedure, as any points system could lead to accusations over covert selection.

The guidance was issued yesterday by the Church in response to the mandatory School Admissions Code, published by the Department for Education last week. The code is intended to ensure that schools do not operate selection through the back door. It outlaws interviews, previously used by many faith schools as a way to determine Christian commitment.

The Church of England, which educates nearly one in five primary pupils, is also urging its handful of new schools to take a quarter of their pupils from other faiths or none. All its schools should aim for at least 15 per cent of pupils from another or no faith, it says.

David Whittington, acting chief education officer for the Church of England, defended the move on guidelines. He told the Times: “It is simply intended to give schools and parishes an objective, easy way of doing this which is also understandable and transparent.”

The tiers:

The Church proposes that applicants be asked to place themselves in one of the three categories: known to the church, attached to the church or at the heart of the church

The bottom category might include someone with a family connection, the top someone who worshipped twice a month

You can read the new guidance at:

www.natsoc.org.uk/downloads/admissionsguidancejan07.doc

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