A new report published today by the recently established think tank, the Academies Commission, entitled Unleashing Greatness, has highlighted growing socio-economic segregation in the English state funded schools system.
The document argues that greater covert social selection is taking place due to the growth in the number of schools that have taken control of their admission arrangements through becoming Academies. Meanwhile, it also notes how all but 2 of the 24 institutions opened in the first wave of the Free Schools programme have admitted fewer children in receipt of free schools meals (a government indicator of poverty) than in their respective local area.
The wide ranging report recommends that the Government should ensure greater equivalence in the admission arrangements between state funded schools, and that schools should be required to publish data on the number of applications received and places offered to children in receipt of free school meals.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said, ‘When analysing the changing pupil profile at schools, we should not ignore or leave unaddressed the growth in religious segregation that is taking place in England. A large number of faith schools that are becoming Academies, namely voluntary controlled and foundation ones, are permitted to select pupils on faith grounds, whereas most were not allowed to do so previously when maintained by their local authority.
‘When it comes to matter of faith in pupil admissions, Accord believes there should be unanimity between state funded schools – that none should be able to select or discriminate against children on religious grounds, as such practice undermines the rights of children, and can have a poisonous affect in terms of undermining community cohesion in society.
The report fails to highlight how religious selection at schools can also lead to greater socio-economic segregation. Research from the Guardian in 2012 showed that most faith schools admitted a smaller proportion of children in receipt of free schools meals than lived in their respective local area.