Admission of vulnerable divides church schools
Governors and parents at church schools are being divided by new government guidelines which stipulate that children in care should be put at the top of admission lists, the Sunday Times reported at the weekend.
The policy has sparked anger in some quarters that standards may be lowered. Others say children in care should always have been given priority by church schools on grounds of Christian justice.
The guidelines from Whitehall, which come into force next year, call for all state-funded schools to give priority to children from care homes, who it describes as ìa disadvantaged group who have very low levels of attainmentî.
Although church schools retain discretion over their admissions, they are coming under pressure from the church itself to abide by the guidelines.
The Church of England provides a quarter of the primary schools in England.
Local education authorities, among others, have now come into conflict with rebel schools that are refusing to place children in care as a top priority.
At St Barnabasí Church of England primary in Pimlico, London, where last year there were about 50 applicants for 23 places, children of parents who are practising Christians are placed before those in care.
John Hicks, the schoolís head teacher, defended the policy; ìWe know children in care must be educated but it can be detrimental to schools that are oversubscribed because in theory a child could arrive in the area and get in when other children in the parish canít.î
In some schools governors plan to continue putting candidates from care homes at the bottom of their list, below even non-Christians.
ìThe blunt truth is church schools are operating a selective policy creaming off the middle class,î said one governor of a London primary school that is refusing to adhere to the guidelines.
The government says 59% of the 60,000 children in care in England left school without a GCSE last year. It aims to cut this figure to 10% by 2006.