‘Inclusivity gap’ between public statements on admissions and action on the ground at Church of England Schools

November 22, 2013

The Accord Coalition has challenged the level of inclusivity at Church of England schools following recent claims as to the sector’s openness by both the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, and Chair of the Church of England’s Board of Education and episcopal spokesperson on education in the House of Lords, The Rt Rev John Pritchard.

Interviewed in The Times (£) last Thursday (November 14th), The Most Reverend Justin Welby said, ‘What you are seeing in the Church schools is a deeper and deeper commitment to the common good. There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests … It is not necessary to select to get a really good school’. However, Lambeth Palace subsequently rebutted the story, and put out a statement quoting the Archbishop as saying that ‘I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as dissenting from this policy.’

Meanwhile, in his opening speech in a General Synod debate on education on Tuesday (November 14th), which was previewed in The Daily Telegraph, The Rt Rev John Pritchard said:

‘But, national figures show that our schools fully reflect the society in which we live. At CofE secondary schools, 15% of CofE Secondary pupils are eligible for Free School Meals. With our mission to serve the poor and excluded, maybe this figure should be higher, but it is in line with the national average for non CofE schools which is also 15%.

One of the great accusations against church schools is that they are predominantly for white, middle class pupils whereas our statistics tell a different story. Our Secondary schools serve approximately the same percentage of Black or Minority Ethnic, BME, pupils as Non-CofE Secondary schools(25%.)’

John Pritchard’s statistics were immediately challenged by the Fair Admissions Campaign, which Accord co-launched in June. The Campaign argued that when state funded Church of England schools were compared to their respective local vicinities, the sector took on average ‘9% fewer pupils with English as an Additional Language, 13% fewer pupils eligible for Free School Meals than their vicinities, and 24% fewer Asian pupils’, contending that ‘… the difference in standing [being] almost entirely due to religious selection in admissions.’

During its education debate the General Synod also passed a motion ‘… affirming the crucial importance of the Church of England’s engagement with schools for its contribution to the common good and to its spiritual and numerical growth’. In his closing speech John Pritchard described his three key priorities for Church Schools as to be ‘more distinctive, more effective and more inclusive’.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said, ‘Justin Welby and John Pritchard have rightly highlighted the value of inclusivity at Church of England schools. However, it remains to be seen how the Church of England school sector is shifting in its approach to pupil admissions and there is growing inclusivity gap between words and reality. Accord therefore repeats its call for the Church to show greater leadership regarding inclusivity in admissions, so as to help bring about a lasting cultural change in its schools and for other faiths to do likewise with theirs.

‘Tuesday’s General Synod debate on education reaffirmed Church of England schools as a place for evangelisation. By ensuring that its schools have open admission arrangements the Church would not only better serve local communities, but also help to achieve a more positive image for itself in wider society.’



In August the Fair Admissions Campaign published new research revealing how much faith based admission arrangements socio-economically segregate school intakes. It found that in contrast to other Church of England schools, those that did not admit pupils on faith grounds reflected the overall make-up of their local communities.

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