A schools watchdog ruling has highlighted concerns around the admission arrangements of many faith schools, which covertly favour pupils from middle class backgrounds.
The UK government’s official school admissions watchdog, the Office of Schools Adjudicator, ruled this week against Coloma Convent Girls' School in Croydon for operating an admissions policy that rewarded applications from children whose families were more active in the Catholic Church.
The school was reported to the Schools Adjudicator by its own Diocese, because it believed there was evidence that local parents were participating in parish activities in order to gain access to the school, and that this was disadvantaging children from immigrant communities and one parents families.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, chair of the Accord Coalition for inclusive schooling, said: “We are pleased by the Schools Adjudicator’s ruling and that the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark has tried to ensure that one of its schools does not operate an admission policy that encourages covert social selection, where families from better resourced and more aspirational backgrounds can play admissions rules to get their children into a better performing school."
He added: "This ruling leaves the Church of England in a highly embarrassing position, as unlike most Catholic schools, a great many Church of England schools do award places to children from families who can show that they are more active in the Church."
Dr Romain continued: “Not only is there firm statistical evidence from the Government showing that faith schools admit fewer pupils with special educational needs and fewer pupils in receipt of free school meals as non-faith schools, but we now have the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark quite rightly acknowledging that admission policies that reward families who can show they are more active in their respective Church is open to abuse and can reward children from middle class families, at the expense of others."
“The Church of England can no longer sustain the status quo or put off avoiding this issue; something must be done. Arguments that people do not take advantage of existing admission arrangements by feigning or playing up their religion or religiosity to gain access to better performing faith schools no longer has credibility," said the Accord Coalition chair.
“The evidence is mounting, and is already clear to many of its lay people and clergy, that religious admission policies do not only help to segregate our children on religious lines, but increasingly also on socio-economic ones. Faith schools should be made open to all, providing education for its own sake. This is what Church schools were originally set up to do, and they should return to their noble origins,” Dr Romain continued.