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Have church schools ever been challenged on grounds of discrimination by ethnicity?

(89 Posts)
BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 14:04:08

I was wondering if any person or organisation has ever challenged an individual church school or the overall existence of church schools on the grounds of discrimination by ethnicity?

Taking a quick look at the church of england diversity figures, these two paragraphs jump out:

This survey reveals the vitality of a younger profile that people from minority
ethnic backgrounds bring to local church congregations. It confirms the similar
finding in the 2005 clergy audit. In particular, among younger adult congregation members under 35 years of age, the ethnic minority proportion matches the proportion in the whole population, around 15%.

1.2.4 The largest proportion of minority ethnic Anglicans (two-thirds) are clustered in the main three dioceses around the London conurbation and, consequently, bring a younger profile to the churches in the London area. Over the whole country, urban Church of England parishes recorded an average of 9% minority ethnic Anglicans in their core adult congregations while suburban and rural parishes recorded 4% and 3.6% respectively.

So, the population attending church in the Church of England would seem to be broadly white. While we all know that church schools are obliged to admit children of any faith, this is often so far down the admissions criteria that it is almost wholly ineffective. Are church schools effectively discriminating on the basis of ethnicity because the black and minority ethnic pupils are much less likely to attend a relevant church?

If church schools make up a significant proportion of the country's school places, which are currently under huge pressure in many parts of the country, then surely this is an issue? It would seem to hugely limit school choice for many sections of the population. In an oversubscribed area, someone who is a white CofE churchgoer can choose either a community or a church school (two school choices), whereas someone who is Hindu only has the community school (one school) to choose from. Setting religion aside, there may be many reasons why that church school might the best school for that Hindu pupil - SEN provision, grounds, location, curriculum, parental preference - yet they are very unlikely to get in. Why is faith seen as the overwhelming factor?

This is a question I am interested in, rather than trying to persuade anyone to any particular point of view. Does anyone have any insight?

meditrina Tue 17-Apr-12 14:14:07

If you look elsewhere on the CofE site about schools admissions, you will find that many are 100% community criteria, and that if you look at CofE schools as a whole, their diversity profile is in line with the national average.

I believe RC schools are slightly more diverse than the national average.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 14:20:20

Thanks - interesting, so why is it that all CofE schools aren't obliged to work in line with community criteria?

I have never stumbled across one that has anything other than church-going criteria.

themildmanneredjanitor Tue 17-Apr-12 14:22:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 14:24:24

So that must be one with community criteria, I assume?

donnie Tue 17-Apr-12 14:26:41

they are not discriminating because in theory anyone who becomes C of E - eg by changing religion or becoming religious - is equally entitled. People are not C of E by birth/race - they are C of E by practise.

A couple of years back, JFS had its entrance critera challenged successfully in the high courts on the grounds of racial discrimination because by their admission the mother had to be BORN Jewish. The parents who took them to court included a born Jewish father and mother who was not Jewish by birth but converted in Israel IIRR. JFS still turned down their application however because the mother was not born Jewish (in Judaism the Jewishness is passed exclusively through the mother). So the parents challenged them and won.

meditrina Tue 17-Apr-12 14:28:32

Historical accident - most VA schools pre-dated the start of state education and as part of the arrangements which put them under state aegis. No government has been able to afford to buy out their ownership of land and buildings. New CofE school and all VC one's are community criteria, as are specified quotas in most (but not all) VA ones. There are voices in CofE that there should be no more than 10% faith places in any VA school, but not much progress in making that aspiration happen.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 14:31:32

Is that the Jewish free school?

I take your point about people being CofE by practice, rather than by birth - but surely for many people faith is fairly fundamental to their lives, rather than being something they adopt?

(Apart from the obvious exceptions of dozens of parents cramming the pews in the years prior to school admission! grin)

meditrina Tue 17-Apr-12 14:32:18

Faith criteria, btw, in CofE schools is not restricted to CofE. It's typically CofE, other Christian, other faith, then anyone. How far down that list offers actually go depends on number of each type of applicant. Christian faith schools can be very popular with Muslim families because the like the ethos, and can deal with questions of the divinity of Christ v status as major Prophet at home.

donnie Tue 17-Apr-12 14:34:09

yes BranchingOut I agree - but my point is that insofaras school places are concerned there is considerable flexibility in the C of E schooling system is concerned whereas the JFS scenario would suggest that unless you are actually born Jewish you can never practise or be Jew.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 14:43:39

Faith criteria, btw, in CofE schools is not restricted to CofE. It's typically CofE, other Christian, other faith, then anyone. How far down that list offers actually go depends on number of each type of applicant.

True, but in an oversubscribed area even the 'other Christian' category is not likely to get a look in, once the siblings and CofE church attendees are catered for.

mummytime Tue 17-Apr-12 14:45:14

Branchingout are you in London? Because I think there would be very few CofE schools outside London where the whole in take is on religious grounds. My DCs school has membership of a certain CofE Church as its first criteria, however I would think there are only 1 or 2 out of 90 admitted each year on that criteria, the next is siblings, then distance within a catchment, then other Christian (with it as the closest C of E), then distance. It is very popular but often gets to the last criteria for entry.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 14:54:47

Yep, am in the feverish educational micro-climate of the capital!

Admissions in London are in crisis point with lots of bulge classes and pupils without places - set to peak in 2015.

thirdhill Tue 17-Apr-12 15:12:44

Pardon my ignorance, but can anyone name a single RL over-subscribed CofE school that does not have ring-fenced non-CofE/community places? Oh go on, give us three names while you're at it.

None of mine go to schools that favour church attendance, but I've noticed if a church school prioritises by faith without setting aside places [albeit less than 50%] not relating to their specific faith, it is never CofE. CofE schools seem to fall over themselves delineating non-CofE places. Over-subscribed RC schools are more likely to take only RCs. CofE and RC schools probably provide the majority of faith schools.

There are a fair few faith schools about our local authority, and from casual inspection when passing by at drop off/ pick up time, their minority ethnic constituency [by appearance] is near or in the majority, as is also the case at church tipping out time near us. So, in our part of the world, I'd say you'd have trouble evidencing the challenge, OP.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 15:18:13

I don't particularly want to name the schools I have seen, because obviously that entirely pinpoints where I live!

Will look for other examples elsewhere.

So if being CofE isn't an issue, how come there is so much talk of church attendance to gain places?

GrimmaTheNome Tue 17-Apr-12 15:30:40

Looking at our village school there does appear to be indirect racial discrimination. But its not deliberate - I don't think the churches are racist.

Its just a knock on from the fact that schools are state-funded organisations which can discriminate against children on the basis of the religion of the child's parents. That's wrong enough IMO.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 15:34:29

OK, for example this school has been described as 'in demand' on MN:

1'Looked after children', as defined under the Children Act 1989

2Siblings of a pupil attending the school at the time of admission

3Baptised children whose parent/parents are extensively involved in the work and worship of St Paul’s Church Winchmore Hill, Holy Trinity Church Winchmore Hill, St John the Evangelist Palmers Green or St Peter’s Church Grange Park

4Baptised children whose parent/parents are involved in the work and worship of St Paul’s Church Winchmore Hill, Holy Trinity Church Winchmore Hill, St John the Evangelist Palmers Green or St Peter’s Church Grange Park

5 Baptised children whose parent/parents are involved in the work and worship of another Church of England church, and who live within ¾ of a mile of the school

6Baptised/dedicated children whose parent/parents are involved in the work and worship of another recognised Christian church and who live within ¾ of a mile of the school

7Children whose parent/parents are involved in the work and worship of another recognised World Faith and who live within ¾ of a mile of the school

8Proximity of the child’s principal place of residence to St Paul’s School.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 15:35:45

Disclaimer: I don't know anything about this school apart from that it was suggested as a good school on a MN thread. This is what a quick look on its website brought up.

igggi Tue 17-Apr-12 15:42:59

Faith schools have an exemption which allows them to discriminate in terms of admissions only, with regard to religion. They can't discriminate against a child they have admitted (eg a child with gay parents) or in regard to any other protected group when admitting (eg choosing a non-disabled Christian over a Christian).

meditrina Tue 17-Apr-12 15:43:17

I can't give you three, but can start the ball rolling with Macaulay in Lambeth. The non-faith places, like and other school which specify the number of community in the admissions criteria, are "ring-fenced". Indeed, if the published admissions criteria were not followed, then there would a) be successful appeals from those to whom the community places should have gone and b) censure from the Adjudicator (or is that Ombudsman?)

So in turn, can you name any schools which have not followed their published admissions criteria?

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 15:48:46

I honestly don't know any examples of schools not following their published admissions criteria, but my question was more around the admissions criteria from first principles eg. is it right or in the interests of society that this should be the case?

From my example above, it looks as if a pupil of another world faith has a pretty slim chance of getting into that school.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 15:49:47

Obviously, I am also pleased to hear that there are schools with ring-fenced commuity places.

BranchingOut Tue 17-Apr-12 15:57:26

bumping for any more views

thirdhill Tue 17-Apr-12 16:15:24

OP is your example over-subscribed?
Of course, unless they are over-subscribed there's no need to ring fence, is there?

The other point is secondary is the level where competition for places intensifies. Ring fencing for primary seems less an issue. Perhaps you should examine them separately?

neepsandtatties Tue 17-Apr-12 16:59:10

thirdhill Here's an example for you in an oversubscribed school - doesn't acknowledge other faiths at all.

2011 - 94 applications, 30 successful applications
10 regular attendance named church
16 siblings
4 distance (last child 0.48 miles away).

Admissions criteria are
1. Looked After Children / Children in Local Authority Care.

2. Children whose parents live in the civil parish of Leybourne and have worshipped fortnightly at xx church for at least a year at the time of application

3. Children who will, at the time of admission, have a brother or sister in the school.

4. Children whose parents live in the civil parish of xx measured by straight line distance from the school, with those living nearer having priority .

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