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Faith schools: AIBU to think people are being misled about the 50:50 rule

(72 Posts)
TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 09:01:37

The Government's consultation on "Schools that Work for Everyone" will soon close and they are promoting it via the Education threads to get more parent input. If you haven't responded yet, you have until December 12th.

One of the controversial proposals is to revoke the rule that says new faith academies can only select up to 50% of their students with reference to faith criteria. This is often called "the 50:50 rule".

The rule was introduced by the coalition government, at a time when faith bodies were being encouraged to create many new schools under the free school programme. However, there has been pressure from the Catholic Education Service (CES) and some Orthodox Jewish groups to reverse it. The CES has refused to open any new schools while the rule is in place.

David Cameron's Conservative Government resisted that pressure, but Theresa May's Government is planning to give in to it, because they want the Catholic Education Service to create more schools.

There has been a lot of debate about this in the media. One of the lines of argument being used by the Catholic Education Service and at least one of the Orthodox Jewish commentators is that the 50:50 rule "discriminates" against children of the faith. They are suggesting that once the first 50% of places are filled, children of faith can't get a place.

However, that is not true. The second 50% is allocated "without reference to faith", meaning that faith and non-faith families are treated equally. For example, those places may be allocated by distance, or random allocation, just as they would be at a community school.

Often the second 50% of places are filled up by children "of the faith" too, if they're the only ones that want or need the places. But if there's demand from across the community then a wider range of families can benefit from the school.

In admissions terms "of the faith" often means adhering to a very strict set of rules about religious practice. The second 50% gives a chance to children who are "of the faith" but whose families don't follow those rules quite so well. It also gives a chance to families who are expressing a preference for the school for non-faith reasons, e.g. because it is their closest, or the best fit for their family values/aspirations.

AIBU to think that a lot of people don't realise this, are being actively misled by faith leaders, and are responding to the debate under a misconception?

These new faith free schools will be 100% funded by the state. Unlike Church of England schools which are intended to be for the community, Catholic schools are evangelical in nature. Yes, the CES is an excellent education provider, but they shouldn't be allowed to blackmail our government into funding the expansion of Catholicism.

ReallyTired Sat 26-Nov-16 09:09:24

I think it's a pity that the law is not changed to make all faith schools have 50% of places without faith criteria. If catholic faith schools had a sibling rule then most of the non faith criteria would be taken up by sibblngs.

Surely the Catholic Church should welcome the chance to evangelicalise to non Catholics. Or is the reality they want to force catholic families to keep up church attendence once their lo has started school.

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 10:47:42

Reallytired, yes I agree the rule should be extended to all schools. It probably would have been eventually under a different government. But this proposal to remove it is a huge step backwards

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 10:51:54

Surely the Catholic Church should welcome the chance to evangelicalise to non Catholics

They have to let non Catholics in if the Schools are undersubscribed under the faith criteria but that's not the same as being open to all as a priority.

EdithWeston Sat 26-Nov-16 10:57:26

Some faith schools (VC ones) have fully community based criteria.

Others (usually CofE) may have a proportion of community-criteria places.

The one local to where we live had, long before the free school policy existed and eg the first ever Hindu state schools appeared.

You still had to live within about 500m of the school to get a place. The well regarded community school you had to leave even nearer.

Selection by distance does not necessarily mean you get into your local school, if it extends only 500m radius, you live 700m and you end up with next school that is 1000m away but has radius greater than that.

And what is needed is for all schools to be good enough for parents to be happy wherever their DC is allocated.

NapQueen Sat 26-Nov-16 11:00:38

Imo faith schools should not be government funded at all.

All government funded schools should remain neutral, with all religions covered equally in a weekly RE lesson. No formal worship. No leanings towards creationism etc.

Faith schools should be wholly funded by their denominations church, donations and, if appropriate, fees.

HarryPottersMagicWand Sat 26-Nov-16 11:01:31

My children attend a faith school and we are not of that faith. People have always said they have to take a certain amount of non faith children but I know what their criteria is and we were way way down on the list, even more so when it came to siblings and they had changed the criteria. If it had been oversubscribed with a lot of the faith applying, DC2 wouldn't have even got a place so I'm not sure they even adhere to these rules anyway.

JassyRadlett Sat 26-Nov-16 11:01:51

I think the real scandal is that in 50/50 schools the 'non-faith' places can be (and often are) completely taken up by siblings of children who got in under the faith quota.

Surely it fits the spirit of the 50/50 better if those siblings are allocated faith quota places?

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 11:07:42

so I'm not sure they even adhere to these rules anyway

The rules only apply to new faith schools created under the free school programme.

The gvt is planning hundreds more of these in coming years.

meditrina Sat 26-Nov-16 11:09:43

I don't think people are being mislead on this point, and more than people, don't understand state school admissions in general.

Look at the volume of threads each year, which show how the myths and misunderstandings persist, even on things where there is a huge amount of accurate information in the public domain.

I think that should be the priority in getting home key messages about school admissions (and this would fit naturally with that as a point of detail).

But I think it is unrealistic to expect,that many people, other than those with DC around the age to be seeking school places, are going to pay much attention to procedures for school entry at all. Let alone the exact semantics of the names of entrance categories.

I think the real scandal is that in 50/50 schools the 'non-faith' places can be (and often are) completely taken up by siblings of children who got in under the faith quota.

Can you C&P what the entrance criteria for such a school actually state? Because I've never seen one which puts siblings of the faith below 'all other faith qualified applicants' and can't quite imagine how it would be worded to avoid a) breaching the admissions code and b) causing uproar amongst parents whose eldest child attends the school.

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 11:10:40

I think the real scandal is that in 50/50 schools the 'non-faith' places can be (and often are) completely taken up by siblings of children who got in under the faith quota

I'd like to see a screenshot of criteria that do that to see what you mean.

meditrina Sat 26-Nov-16 11:13:25

"The gvt is planning hundreds more of these in coming years."

Good - the demographic bulge that the primary school system is only just coping with is about to hit secondary schools and if more places are created now it'll be a thoroughly good thing.

Though of course central government has no role whatsoever in planning the nature of free schools, it's bottom up in the sense that a local group has to make the proposals. So there is no way that the government can decree that there will be more faith schools, but as more schools are needed it might want to encourage potential backers of any kind.

nickelbabe Sat 26-Nov-16 11:16:44

The school dd goes to, the year before last had 29 out of 30 catholics okay, that included siblings).
This year, I think there were 5 places left after siblings and catholics

nickelbabe Sat 26-Nov-16 11:17:04

It's a catholic school

TheCakes Sat 26-Nov-16 11:17:10

Surely if one sibling gets in under faith criteria, the vast majority of siblings also meet the same criteria?
If you are a Catholic family who raises the children in the faith, you'll baptise them all.

nickelbabe Sat 26-Nov-16 11:17:45

We're not catholic.
We were category 5 "children of other faiths"

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 11:17:52

So there is no way that the government can decree that there will be more faith schools

You're missing the point Meditrina. The Catholic Education Service have said they will create dozens of new free schools, but only if the gvt remove the 50% cap. It's blackmail.

nickelbabe Sat 26-Nov-16 11:19:14

Yes, Cakes that's why i ssaid catholics and then aadded siblings because they put siblings above catholics (if dd had a sibling, they would be categorised higher than a catholic first child)

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 11:20:13

Surely if one sibling gets in under faith criteria, the vast majority of siblings also meet the same criteria?

Only if you carry on going to church. Many oversubscribed schools use practice criteria rather than baptism to prioritise admissions.

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 11:27:12

Meditrina if you think people aren't being misled watch Rabbi David Meyer on this Sunday Morning Live programme: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p048cfp7

crashdoll Sat 26-Nov-16 11:38:42

YABU. People need to read policies for state school admissions. This goes for faith schools and non faith schools alike. People need to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility for themselves.

meditrina Sat 26-Nov-16 11:40:36

I knew people are very confused about school admissions in the first place, as I am a regular on threads in the education topics.

Understanding the finer points of the working of the interplay between faith and community places in a school which has provision for both definitely is unlikely to be grasped by someone who does not know how schools admissions work in the first place. And as that's still all too often at a stage where myth-busting is required, that's where main effort is needed.

How it works in schools where there is the faith/community place split would of course be one part of that.

And yes, commentators who should know better get it wrong, even on telly. It might be worth writing to the producers, asking them to have a better informed pundit next time.

But when even the (then) Prime Minister spoke publicly about what he would do should his DD receive offers from several state schools, I do sometimes despair of anyone actually getting it right .

(OK, yes, I know it is occasionally possible to have two, if one is from a brand new free school in first year of operation, but I think that's not terribly well known either)

TheKingIsInTheAltogether Sat 26-Nov-16 11:53:57

Meditrina it's not just any old pundit but one of the main lobbyists for a change in the policy. A spokesperson for the Catholic Education Service has said the same thing and is often re-quoted in the press.

These people are influencing government policy using false claims.

meditrina Sat 26-Nov-16 11:59:44

Yes, as I said, this sort of speaking riddles the debate (noted above a specific example from a former Prime Minister who was way more influential than a lobbyist). It might be ignorance, it might be speaking for particular effect in attempt to persuade, it might be error (just as occurs on any complicated topic when a pundit is a proponent of a particular line)

Only by improving knowledge of admissions as a whole will people actually understand where procedures for school with a split of place type fits in. And be able to assess the merits of any changes to the admissions structure.

And yes, agree that the press do not seem to look critically enough at far too many issues. Health is the one that is notoriously usually wrong, but aspects of education are up there too.

JassyRadlett Sat 26-Nov-16 17:24:38

Can you C&P what the entrance criteria for such a school actually state? Because I've never seen one which puts siblings of the faith below 'all other faith qualified applicants' and can't quite imagine how it would be worded to avoid a) breaching the admissions code and b) causing uproar amongst parents whose eldest child attends the school

I never suggested that faith siblings should be put below other faith qualified applicants - simply that they should be allocated against the faith quota, rather than the open quota.

At our nearest (CofE) school the school took no children on distance for years, despite 50% of the places being ostensibly non-faith. Because the priority went LAC-siblings-church-distance, the siblings of children who got in under the faith criteria in previous years mopped up all the non-faith places. It made it a very nice little bubble that in no way reflected the local community.

Until it got an iffy ofsted and lots of parents decided a faith education wasn't that important to them after all.

The criteria - quite common - are:

1. Looked after children and previously looked after children
2. Children with an exceptional, medical or social need for a place at this school who live within one
kilometre of the school
3. Sibling in school at the time of admission
4. Children whose family are *regular worshippers at LOCAL CHURCH (up to the maximum of 30 places). Children of families in this category that have moved in to the area within the one year period prior to the date of receipt of application form by the school, will be accepted if they have been *regularly attending their previous church immediately prior to their move
5. Children who live nearest the school as measured by a straight line to the nearest school gate

My view is that siblings should have priority (within reason) but that for every sibling of a child who was admitted under the faith criteria, the available faith quota should shrink by one. So if there are 20 younger siblings of children who got in as part of the faith quota in one year, there would only be 10 extra places reserved for the faith criteria.

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