A new survey has provided a unique insight as to how faith school admission policies are being abused, revealing the hypocrisy that pervades the faith admissions system, and bringing into question the continuing involvement of faith groups in state funded education.
The poll conducted by YouGov for the educational charity The Sutton Trust showed that 6% of all parents with children currently at a state school admit to attending church services, when they did not previously, so that their child could go to a church school. For parents from socio-economic group A this figure rose to 10%. This is despite faith schools:
- only educating a quarter of pupils at state funded schools in England and Wales
- many not being oversubscribed in the first place
- many not rewarding church attendance in their over-subscription policy – some show preference to children who have been baptised instead, while others, such as most voluntary controlled faith schools, do not show preference on any faith grounds
- regular church attendees only comprising 10% of the adult population
The new research suggests that up to a third of places at religiously selective faith schools may be given to children of families who have feigned religious practice in some way.
Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘These findings are highly revealing. For the first time they shine a light on the way the faith school admissions system is being abused towards serving the affluent, when most Church schools were originally establish to provide education for the poor. The real extent of the cheating may well be much higher’.
‘However, it is hard to blame parents who pay lip-service to a system that can require them to feign belief and practice so their children can gain admission into good schools. What is at fault is a system that puts parents in this position in the first place.
‘The involvement of faith groups in state funded school age education is now being increasingly brought into question. If they want to remove their schools from this taint of hypocrisy and to show that their motives are not based on self interest, but the common good, state funded faith schools should move away from selecting pupils by faith altogether. Some faith schools already do not select pupils by faith, showing that it is not necessary in order to fulfil their remit to educate children.’
The poll findings can be found in the Sutton Trust’s new report ‘PARENT POWER?’ at http://www.suttontrust.com/our-work/research/item/parent-power/. The Sutton Trust aims to improve social mobility and address educational disadvantage.
The April 2007 report ‘Churchgoing in the UK’ from the Christian charity Tearfund found that 10% of adults in Great Britain attended Church weekly – available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03_04_07_tearfundchurch.pdf.
Speaking to The Times last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, praised inclusivity at Church of England schools, but stopped short of calling for firm action. He 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. There are unbelievably brilliant schools that are entirely open to all applicants without selection criteria apart from residence, where you live, and which produce staggeringly good results. It’s a question of — and you can point to them all over the place — it’s a question of outstanding leadership.’