Faith schools success due to selection by the back door

December 14, 2010

The Department for Education has today released new primary school league tables showing that faith schools comprised of over two thirds of those schools with top Sats results, even though faith schools account for less than 40% of primary schools.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said ‘the strong performance from faith schools is entirely predictable given that all recent research – including the government’s own findings – show that religious entry requirements lead to covert social selection.

‘This is done either deliberately, such as by getting prospective pupils to write statements about their religious beliefs and therefore gaining insights as to their levels of articulation, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure; or it indirect, because insisting on regular church attendance means automatically privileging higher socio-economic groups, as families from those groups are more likely to regularly attend church. This in turn skews faith schools social and ability profile and boosts their results.

‘This is why the former Department of Children, Schools and Families 2008 report on the effectiveness of the School Admissions Code found that faith schools were the schools most likely not to comply with the schools admissions code by engaging in practices that were favourable to those with greater social capital and higher socio-economic status. If people want selection, then be upfront and have Grammar Schools – but do not use religion as a mask for it. Publicly-funded faith schools should serve the entire local community’.


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 Schools: Admissions and Performance (2009) by the House of Commons Library reviewed evidence on the relationship between admissions and performance in faith schools and found that ‘recent research on primary schools suggests that performance difference can largely be explained by prior attainment and background. The remaining differences are due to parental self-selection and selection methods used by some faith schools’.

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’.

2 Responses to Faith schools success due to selection by the back door

  1. Rick on December 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    But isn’t this a circle. Because the students who believe in god and success, go onto become succesful and churchgoers and then insist on their own children following in the footsteps and going to church schools and having strong values. Of course a religious school should require you to be a christan, or at least to learn the ways of one. I really don’t see what the problem is?

  2. Paul Kanera on December 16, 2010 at 12:46 am

    In response to the comment from Rick, it depends on what your measure of “success” is, and what are good “strong values”.

    Perhaps one measure of these might be how well you are serving the most disadvantaged children in your local area, regardless of their parents’ creed or culture. Another measure might be what example you are setting young people, in encouraging them to work side by side with their neighbours of different backgrounds and faiths, so that they in turn can grow up to build a more compassionate and understanding world.

    By these sorts of measures it would seem that faith schools are, on average, currently doing less well than inclusive, “non-faith” community schools, based on the socio-economic mix of the schools and the proportion of pupils they take that are eligible for free school meals.

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