Liverpool City Council to examine why minority ethnic children experience diminished school choices

August 1, 2020

Liverpool City Council - WikipediaLiverpool City Council has this week decided to investigate the ways in which children from Muslim and other ethnic minority backgrounds are disproportionately obstructed by secondary school admission policies in the City. The Scrutiny Panel, which has been established with the approval of the Council’s Education and Children Services Committee, will also explore the extent to which those from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds are represented on the governing body of local schools (Section 73).

Due to the number of religiously selective faith schools in Liverpool, almost half of secondary school places in the City can be apportioned on faith grounds, making the local authority’s school system one of the most religiously discriminatory in England. Links between religious selection by pupils and ethnic disadvantage have previously been identified and may be relevant to Liverpool’s situation.

A 2018 study commissioned by the Department for Education and undertaken by the University of Lancaster found that children from minority ethnic backgrounds had a significantly reduced chance of getting into state funded Church schools. Though the report was not certain what was causing the disadvantage, it argued ‘possible explanations must focus on the admissions practices of Church schools’ (p35). It later noted these ‘patterns of segregation in Church schools are not explained by [parental] preferences, and are, at least in part, due to children failing to gain admission at chosen schools’ (p38).

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Revd Stephen Terry, said ‘Liverpool City Council should be congratulated for deciding to investigate why local children from Muslim and other ethnic minority backgrounds face diminished school choice. Accord urges the Council to leave no stone unturned and to consider the extent to which religiously discriminatory admission arrangements are undermining children’s life chances.’

‘That religiously selective admission policies not only divide by religion but can divide on the grounds of race, is an overlooked and pernicious problem. It is further reason why religious selection by schools is becoming less and less suitable in our increasingly diverse society. If it is found to be taking place in Liverpool, then local dioceses must be prepared to lead their local schools towards operating less segregationist policies.’
Research from the Fair Admissions Campaign in 2013 revealed that of the 152 local authorities responsible for education in England with at least three secondary schools, Liverpool’s secondary school system permitted the second highest level of religious selection to occur, with up 48.7% of its secondary school places being able to awarded on the grounds of faith. The statistical findings can be found via the ‘Overall averages’ tab at

Indirect racial discrimination occurs when a policy or practice applies to everyone in the same way but has a worse effect on people of one racial group than those of others. It is illegal except where, as Department for Education guidance notes, “… it can be shown to be ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. This means both that the reason for the rule or practice is legitimate, and that it could not reasonably be achieved in a different way which did not discriminate.

In 2015 Accord Coalition published an innovative report ‘Racial discrimination by religiously selective faith schools: a worsening problem’ which revealed how faith selection by state funded schools in England had become a major and worsening source of indirect racial discrimination in society. Many of those being disadvantaged were found to be of South Asian heritage and from a Muslim background.

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