Many people are appalled that in our society state funded faith schools are able to discriminate against children and their families on religious grounds in their admissions policy. To do this faith schools have been given various exemptions from human rights and equality law. However, it is not often known that local communities are also able to prevent such discrimination in many of their faith schools; namely in their voluntary controlled faith schools.
Voluntary controlled faith schools differ from all the types of state funded faith school (voluntary aided, foundation and academy/ free school). These other types of faith school determine their own pupil admissions policy and are able to choose whether to discriminate against applicants on religious grounds when they are oversubscribed.
However, voluntary controlled faith schools are different. They have their admissions policy determined by their local authority responsible for education and therefore a unique opportunity exists for local residents who object to religious discrimination in pupil addmissions to petition and lobby their council to stop these schools from operating in this way.
Fortunately, most councils that have voluntary controlled faith schools in their area do not let them select pupils on religious grounds, but sadly a significant minority still do.
Research by the Accord Coalition in 2011 showed that 137 of the 174 local authorities responsible for education in England and Wales had one or more voluntary controlled faith school in their jurisdiction, and furthermore, that 43 of these authorities (listed in the table below) permitted religious discrimination in these school’s oversubscription admission arrangements of some kind.
|EAST ANGLIA||EAST MIDLANDS||GREATER LONDON||NORTH EAST|
|NORTH WEST||SOUTH EAST|
|BOLTON||BRACKNELL FOREST||WEST SUSSEX||MILTON KEYNES|
|ROCHDALE||ISLE OF WIGHT||WEST BERKSHIRE||PORTSMOUTH|
|KENT||WINDSOR & MAIDENHEAD||WOKINGHAM|
|YORKS AND HUMBER||WALES||SOUTH WEST||WEST MIDLANDS|
If your local authority is one of these ‘offending’ councils then you should be able to find out more about how the pupil admissions and over subscription criteria of local community and voluntary controlled schools operate on the council’s website. If not then the council’s education department will supply you with the policy upon request.
Although more and more faith schools in England are becoming Academy schools (which get to determine their own admissions) voluntary controlled faith schools still form a significant minority of all faith schools in England and Wales. They comprise of a comparatively much larger proportion of primary than secondary schools, and as shown in the table below, still comprise of over a third of all state funded faith schools and about 12.5% of all state schools in England. Therefore religious selection in voluntary controlled schools remains a very big issue.
|Faith school % of state school sector in England|
|Voluntary Aided faith schools||Voluntary Controlled faith schools||Foundation faith schools||Faith school academies||Total no of state schools||% of schools that are faith schools|
|Types of faith school as % of their own sector England|
|Voluntary Aided faith schools||Voluntary Controlled faith schools||Foundation faith schools||Faith school academies|
If your local council is one of the significant number of authorities that still allow their voluntary controlled faith schools to operate in this way then we urge you to take action and campaign to make your council implement inclusive admissions that take no account of children and families beliefs.
To help you do this the Accord Coalition has produced a short guide for activists on running and organising a local campaign to get your local council to stop religious selection in their voluntary controlled faith schools. You can access Accord’s ”Local schools for open communities: inclusive admissions in voluntary controlled faith schools” campaign guide here.