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Nicky Morgan proves herself out of touch once again on faith schools ...

(47 Posts)
geneticLottery Sun 24-Jan-16 21:16:29

What is Nicky Morgan on for goodness sake? A campaign group points out the systematic flouting of admissions law at many faith schools, which are their own admissions authorities, and her reaction is to wind back the clock to gag the campaigners?

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/12117835/Nicky-Morgan-to-protect-faith-schools-from-secular-campaigns.html

The reason there are so many transgressions against the code is because for years only local parents could raise objections and schools got used to the idea they could get away with whatever they pleased. Two years ago the rules changed so that anyone could object and, not surprisingly, lots of objections were raised.

Nicky Morgan should be cracking down on the transgressors not gagging the whistle blowers!

meditrina Sun 24-Jan-16 21:52:23

Clamping down on vexatious complaints, whether this or anything else is fine by me.

Potentially well-founded complaints, such as using subjective criteria, are (and will remain) also fine.

Bit of a non-story, really.

geneticLottery Sun 24-Jan-16 22:08:33

Vexatious means "denoting an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant".

However the Fair Admissions Campaign is winning the majority of its cases.

I can see why faith school admissions authorities might be "annoyed" by that, but the honest solution is to make sure their policies comply with the law.

namechangedtoday15 Sun 24-Jan-16 23:48:25

schools got used to the idea that they could get away with whatever they pleased hmm

That's the sort of sweeping generalisation that only reinforces the misunderstanding in the first place.

geneticLottery Mon 25-Jan-16 08:31:25

Ok namechangedtoday15, let me re-phrase it:

Many schools that were their own admissions authorities didn't take enough care to ensure they complied with the code. They got away with it because not enough local parents were knowledgeable enough to challenge them, and local authorities turned a blind eye. It was only when the rules changed to allow anyone to challenge admissions criteria that the gates were opened to a lot of well overdue challenges. Now it seems that Nicky Morgan wants to reverse that change.

namechangedtoday15 Mon 25-Jan-16 09:20:00

Two things - still don't agree with the "many schools" and also if you as a parent don't care enough to make yourself knowledgeable about the admissions process, then that's your own fault. What it shouldn't be (in my view) is a blanket political move - and thats what it has become - national organisations targetting schools where they think they'll win, regardless of whether locally it works / parents have complained and regardless of whether the staff have the means / time to deal with the "fight". Usually for the publicity or to score a political point. With the real risk that management / education is compromised at that school for every single child.

Don't get me wrong, there must be a way of challenging unfairness (albeit what is "unfair" is obviously subjective) but not via vexatious complaints which come from some organisation hundreds of miles away.

geneticLottery Mon 25-Jan-16 09:28:49

Namechanged, if the schools don't have time to deal with challenges to their policies, or indeed time to ensure that their policies comply with the law, then they shouldn't be their own admissions authorities. The responsibility is too great. If they can't cope then admissions authority should be at diocesan level, not at school level.

if you as a parent don't care enough to make yourself knowledgeable about the admissions process, then that's your own fault.

The Admissions Code is a complex document. Many admissions policies are complex documents too. In some of the cases that have been brought the Admissions Adjudicator has not been able to understand the school's policy, never mind local parents.

whatwouldrondo Tue 26-Jan-16 21:45:01

And the fact remains that these challenges have shown up some gross unfairness, like parents being expected to clean the church silver to help earn their child a place. Unfair, sexist, socially exclusive, the list goes on. Local parents are not going to rock the boat with powerful institutions like the Catholic Church when what they want is a place in a good school. This is just giving in to lobbying by those institutions.

I think there are two elements to this:-

If schools are breaching the Admissions Code then they should be challenged and I think that that challenge can be undertaken by anyone.

If faith schools are following the Admissions Code and selecting by faith in accordance with the current laws they should not be challenged. The challenge to this practice should be in Parliament as the problem is the laws as they currently stand rather than the actions of an individual school.

meditrina Wed 27-Jan-16 14:30:56

Having admissions criteria that breach the Admissions Code is a grounds for successful appeal, so yes it does tend to get found out rapidly and by parents.

According to the linked article, it says the society has raised 50 complaints and OP says that they have all been won. Is there a handy list somewhere of all those findings?

I'm also mildly surprised to see that Christian schools are specified (though I suppose as they make up over 25% of British schools they might form the largest group with errors simply because there are so many of them). I would have expected that the main problems were new, small free schools who do not have an educational organisation as a backer and also I've read on MN that there has been questionable practice by Jewish schools.

tribpot Wed 27-Jan-16 14:38:08

You can read the full report here (PDF link).

samG76 Wed 27-Jan-16 15:16:50

Part of the problem is that what is and isn't considered acceptable in admissions changes monthly. A local school to us agreed its admissions policy with the relevant government department, and still had it successfully challenged the following year.

FaithLoveandHope Wed 27-Jan-16 15:22:45

Maybe I'm missing the point but what's the issue with faith schools selecting students by their faith? Can't see why somebody else's child who doesn't go to church regularly should be admitted to a faith school over somebody's child who does go to church regularly. Seems once again to be an attack on church schools. Maybe I'm missing the point though...

namechangedtoday15 Wed 27-Jan-16 16:13:12

I think its a mechanism by which people can jump on the band wagon of sweeping criticism for faith schools.

iamnotaponceyloudperson Wed 27-Jan-16 16:20:43

I think part of the point is that faith schools make up a considerable proportion of the available state schools in some areas which mean children are excluded from their local schools and the idea of 'choice' only applies if you are of, or are willing to maintain a pretence of, faith. It can be very socially divisive.

geneticLottery Wed 27-Jan-16 16:56:37

Faithloveandhope you asked "what is the issue with faith schools selecting students by their faith", but they don't select by faith because faith can't be measured or proved. They select by things they can measure like how often you go to church, which church you go to, and how soon after birth you were baptised. It turns those activities into a competitive sport, which has little to do with levels of faith, and which the pushiest parents inevitably win.

Families should be able to attend their local state funded faith schools without having to "prove" they have more right to do so than someone who lives further away by going to church more often than they do. After all, if they don't have some sympathy to the faith they will tend to look elsewhere (if they have another option that is), and in any case most faith schools do have a requirement for parents to sign up to supporting the ethos via a home-school agreement.

geneticLottery Wed 27-Jan-16 16:59:38

namedchanged I'd call it the zeitgeist, not the bandwagon. Nicky Morgan should get with it or get out.

namechangedtoday15 Wed 27-Jan-16 17:51:29

No, I think "bandwagon" was the correct term. And actually, challenging the bandwagon is a good thing. If you are referring to the author of the above "report" (I use the term loosely) as a campaigner, then it stands to reason she is not persuaded by it. Most people wouldn't be. Its hardly scientific.

tribpot Wed 27-Jan-16 18:09:21

The purpose of the report was to highlight where faith schools are failing to meet their obligations to their communities (by which I mean the people who live in the local area, rather than their faith community) to take in the required number of students not of their faith.

From the introduction: The Adjudicator did not simply find breaches of the Code in every one of the schools we objected to; it invariably found further breaches beyond those that we had initially identified. Some schools were failing to prioritise looked after or previously looked after children, others were requiring financial support for associated organisations and there were even cases of direct discrimination on the basis of race and gender. (An overview of the issues identified can be found on pages 11-15.)

Is there an inherent bias, in that the British Humanist Association does not agree with state-funded faith schools? Yes, but hardly a hidden one given the entire opening statement is about why they think state-funded faith schools are wrong.

However, what Nicky Morgan appears to want to prevent is a co-ordinated appeal against breaches of the Admissions Code, since it is harder for parents acting individually to recognise a pattern of abuse.

RancidOldHag Wed 27-Jan-16 18:27:48

There are about 25,000 state schools in UK. I'm not sure exactly how many are their own admissions authority (because of the overlap of academies and VA) but it's probably about half of that number.

So 44 schools had breaches, which means it's about 0.3% of those schools.

Jewish schools seem to be the most cited in that report.

namechangedtoday15 Wed 27-Jan-16 18:31:06

I don't doubt there are some relevant points but as I suggested if you look hard enough, but its not really a scientific survey with an objective point of view.

What I meant by the bandwagon is the terminology used in the OP - schools got used to the idea they could get away with whatever they pleased. That's the kind of comment that polarises opinion, even the CE of the organisation who wrote the report says it is far from the case that every school is manipulating the system or blatantly ignoring the code (albeit there are obviously cases of it).

geneticLottery Wed 27-Jan-16 18:31:50

namedchanged I was referring to the many thousands of parents out there who love good schools, including faith schools, but hate the admissions process. For example, they hate having to increase their church attendance from once per month to twice per month because their local school has suddenly become more popular with people who live further away than they do and the admissions criteria have been tightened. They hate having to "sign in" at church, so that the vicar can verify their attendance without being sued for not being able to prove he can keep track of his ever changing flock. They hate having to switch from the church they've attended for years, to the one next door to the local school because it has higher priority. And they hate being labelled as hypocrites for doing any of the above, when they're so anxious about getting any place at all for their child within a reasonable distance of their home.

And, most of all, if they write to their Secretary of State to complain about any of the above, they hate being told they should set up a free school of their own to solve the problem.

Parents are upset, anxious and angry, and the existence of campaign groups is symptomatic of that, not causal.

geneticLottery Wed 27-Jan-16 18:36:07

So 44 schools had breaches, which means it's about 0.3% of those schools

They didn't look at all of them, just a randomly selected sample of 70. From the report ...

"In June 2014 we surveyed the admissions policies of the 70 religiously selective state secondary schools located in local authorities where the local authority’s name starts with the letter ‘B’ (which we shall refer to as the ‘survey’ schools).9 There are 535 religiously selective secondary schools in England in total so this survey included 13% of the total, or over one-eighth of such schools. It covered 19 of the 151 local authorities with state-funded secondary schools, or 12.5% of the total.10 Some of these, such as Birmingham, Bradford, Buckinghamshire and Bristol are quite large, while others such as Blackburn, Blackpool and Bracknell are amongst the smallest. Some such as Buckinghamshire are fairly rural while most are urban or suburban. Barnet schools were covered in DCSF’s 2008 exercise as well as in ours. A decent mix of religious denominations and types of establishment is also included."

tribpot Wed 27-Jan-16 18:46:44

Quite. This was a sample. The actual rate of non-compliance was around 90%, if you include the asking of questions which should not be relevant to determining which pupil best met the entry criteria. I doubt it would be cost effective to survey every single one.

RancidOldHag Wed 27-Jan-16 18:46:51

It would be an even small fraction, if you went by the actual 41 cases upheld.

The MN admissions experts are commenting on your other thread.

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