Schools Adjudicator told to play down problems about faith school admissions

February 4, 2011

The Chief Schools Adjudicator for England has been criticised for overstating the extent that faith schools which control their own admissions policy break the Schools Admission Code. The code is a statutory document which all bodies responsible for pupil admissions in state schools must comply with.

Speaking to the House of Commons Education Select Committee on Wednesday, the Chief Schools Adjudicator, Dr Ian Craig, was asked by committee member Damian Hinds MP that “… in next year’s report, given the publicity that extended to this year’s report, that the Office makes strenuous additional efforts to put into context the extent of this problem and the extent to which there is not a problem, clearly, in the vast, vast majority of [faith] schools”. Dr Craig replied “I’m very happy to take that on board”.

In this 2010 Annual Report Dr Craig noted that 45 of the 151 cases that his office ruled on in the previous year had related to faith schools that controlled their own admissions. Upon publication of his annual report he also noted how religious admissions criteria at some faith schools indirectly helped pupils from more middle class back grounds and indigenous communities get accepted into schools.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said, ‘It is extraordinary that the Chief Schools Adjudicator should be put under pressure in this way. The covert social selection that takes place through the admissions policies in faith schools that control their own admissions policy has been a continual cause for concern, both for the Government and in the annual reports of previous Chief Schools Adjudicators. In 2009 the House of Commons even produced research showing how the selection methods used by some faith schools distorted the social profile of their pupil intact.

‘It is inappropriate for Mr. Hind to put pressure on a public servant like this and for them to be scapegoated. Covert social selection in faith schools is a big problem and one that we cannot afford to be complacent about’.


Can Competition Improve School Standards? The Case of Faith Schools in England (2009) by Dr Rebecca Allen and Dr Anna Vignoles found ‘… significant evidence that religious schools are associated with higher levels of pupil sorting across schools, but no evidence that competition from faith schools raises area-wide pupil attainment’.

Faith Primary Schools: Better Schools or Better Pupils? (2009) by Stephen Gibbons and Olmo Sliva argued that ‘it appears that most of the apparent advantage of faith school education in England can be explained by differences between the pupils who attend these schools and those who do not’.

A parliamentary question from Adrian Sanders MP answered on 25 February 2009 found that 11.5% of pupils at faith schools were in receipt in free schools meals, but 15.7% in non-faith schools.

School Admissions Report: Fair choice for parents and pupils (2007) by Sarah Tough and Richard Brookes argued that ‘… schools have no reason to be their own admissions authorities, other than to select students by ability or socio-economic background’. They found that non-religious schools which were their own admissions authorities were six times more likely to be highly unrepresentative of their surrounding area than community schools for whom the local authority was the admission authority. However, faith schools which are their own admission authorities were ten times more likely to be highly unrepresentative of their surrounding area than faith schools where the local authority was the admission authority.

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