Nine Catholic ‘faith’ schools have been found by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to be in breach of the School Admissions Code over the space of July – all due to their faith-based oversubscription criteria. No other religious school had their criteria deemed to be in breach of the Code during this period. The British Humanist Association (BHA) believes that this shows the unintended consequences that can come with allowing religious selection in schools.
When ‘faith’ schools are oversubscribed – that is to say, they have more parents applying than places available – they are often able to religiously select their pupils on religious grounds, typically up to 100%. It has been a persistent problem for many years that ‘faith’ schools often breach the School Admissions Code – an issue the BHA highlighted last year when it responded to the consultation on the new code, and the OSA itself highlighted in 2010 and 2011.
The nine state-funded schools were deemed to be in breach of the Code by the OSA. St Marys Catholic Primary School in Calderdale wanted to reduce its admissions number, in spite of their being a shortage of places locally, because only 30 of its 40 places were going to Catholics; it used Canon Law to justify this. St Thomas More Catholic School in Haringey was interviewing parents prior to admission, and allowed the Priest to accept or reject pupils without giving any criteria for doing so – both of which are not allowed as they can be used to socially select. It and Christ the King Catholic Primary School were also found to be selecting pupils on parents’ support of the ethos of the school, regardless of whether they were religious – which likely breaks equality and human rights laws. Finally, other schools were found to be asking pupils to attend religious worship as well as parents, despite this not even being one of their admissions criteria.
BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘The behaviour by these schools demonstrates the huge scale of the problem of “faith” schools religiously selecting pupils in ways that are not allowed.
‘Earlier this year, research by The Guardian showed the vast extent to which religious schools exclude the poorest pupils through their faith-based selection criteria. This, taken with evidence of persistent, serious breaches of the Code, must surely lead to renewed calls for an end to faith-based selection in state schools.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.
The schools’ breaches
View decisions made by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator: http://www.education.gov.uk/schoolsadjudicator/decisions
Read the School Admissions Code: https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/DFE-00013-2012
Read The Guardian report, ‘Church schools shun poorest pupils’, 5 March 2012: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/mar/05/church-schools-shun-poorest-pupils
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools
View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/schools-with-a-religious-character.pdf
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.