Can one appeal against missing a place on the grounds of preferring a non-faith school?

(42 Posts)
GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 09:38:25

We have been offered a place in a C of E faith school. When applying to a non-faith school as first preference, we mentioned its progressive, inclusive, modern approach to teaching and to all faiths in the "social reasons" section of the application.

The school we have been offered is a very old-fashioned faith school, with crosses everywhere, mentions God all over its literature, and really celebrates Easter and Christmas, with trips to local church, and so on. The headmaster told us that R.E. is compulsory, taking precedence over subjects such as music, if there we timetabling conflicts.

Over Easter our son became really confused and a bit scared about the concept of Jesus, and his "resurrection", due to what he'd heard at nursery. We happily talk about these matters with him objectively, telling him what people of all faiths believe, and that what we, as agnostics believe, or otherwise.

We would rather he learns about religion in a neutral, objective fashion, rather than having it "shoved down his throat".

In general I don't think faith schools have a place in state-funded education, in this modern day and age. We would much prefer our children to be exposed to all cultures and faiths, and make their own minds up.

Is any of this grounds for an appeal?

This may sound like I'm taking a long shot at coming up with a reason for an appeal, but it is a genuine concern for us.


meditrina Fri 22-Apr-16 09:50:49

Is this for reception?

You don't appeal against your allocation, but for the school you prefer.

The grounds on which an appeal under Infant Class Size rules are very limited. Does the school (or schools) you intend to appeal for have admissions numbers which are multiples of 30 (or 15 if there is mixed year teaching anywhere up to the end of KS2)?

The religious character of a school is not grounds for an appeal, just as eg the OFSTED rating not either. All maintained schools are considered to be able to offer all DC an adequate education, and although the system does what it can to match people to their preferences, in oversubscribed areas people cannot always get their top preferences.

GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 09:55:01

meditrina: yes, it's for reception. We did express a preference for the non-faith school, as I mentioned. Yes, it would be an ISC appeal. What you write makes sense, thank you.

meditrina Fri 22-Apr-16 09:55:27

BTW, it's compulsory for all maintained schools to provide RE lessons.

But whatever the school says, parents have the right to opt their children out of this and also out of any acts of worship.

I'd advise against the former though, because that is when schools would cover all major religions and that is what you say you are looking for.

GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 10:02:37

We wouldn't opt-out, we just don't like the apparent emphasis on C of E, God, Jesus, crosses, etc. Maybe it's not as bad as we feared, and TBH we probably don't have much choice at this stage.

Mishaps Fri 22-Apr-16 10:14:01

It is a disgrace that in a civilised society children are obliged to go to a religion based school. It is time that the state and religion were separated completely.

What would be the position if a child from a muslim family was forced into such a school as yours? - we would regard that as being wrong and disrespectful to the parents wishes. It is disrespectful to your beliefs too.

I detest the idea that small children are subjected to the story of good Friday - the blood, the gore, the cruelty, the suffering - it is outrageous. Young minds are receptive to everything at this young age, and the pervasiveness of the Christian story in this school is nothing short of indoctrination.

The problem is that your child is already there and he will have made friends and become settled (I presume) so trying to get a change of school becomes more difficult.

And, even if you did, many so-called non-aligned schools have Christianity as their core belief and this comes through in saying grace at mealtimes, celebrating festivals etc. It is hard to get away from! How dreadful that is.

exexpat Fri 22-Apr-16 10:26:56

You could try contacting the National Secular Society for advice on this - they are campaigning against faith schools and the way the admissions systems operates. I wouldn't rate your chances if the faith issue is your only grounds for appeal (non-believers get no preference/priority anywhere) but the more people make a fuss about it, the better the chance of getting the system changed.

Faith schools add to the angst of school offer day - article by NSS.

eddiemairswife Fri 22-Apr-16 10:27:03

Muslim families very often apply, and appeal, for faith schools because of the religious ethos.

GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 10:28:10

Agree wholeheartedly, well said.

GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 10:36:46

eddiemairswife: Indeed, as do Christians, I imagine. I think that a preference for a non-religious school should be a recognised admission criterion.

If people want to teach their kids their own religions, fair enough. Do it at home, or send them to Sunday school. An emphasis on a particular faith has no place in a state school to which many parents have little actual choice in sending their children.

t4gnut Fri 22-Apr-16 10:45:44

I'm confused - was it a school you selected on your preferences?

If not you certainly don't have to accept it. However its not a grounds for appeal at the school you want.

madamginger Fri 22-Apr-16 10:48:36

The humanist society is also campaigning on this issue.
My children are opted out of religious worship at school, they do have RE lessons but it is made clear that it is what some people believe. Words were had after ds1 came home spouting that god made the world and I found out that the school were doing creationism in Assembly shockangry and I don't care if that makes me 'that parent'

mummytime Fri 22-Apr-16 10:51:24

You don't have grounds for a successful ICS appeal - sorry.

You can still appeal anyway. You could go to the papers and do a sad face. But it won't do you or your son much good.

Where are you on the waiting list for your prefered school? Was the C of E school on your list? Are there any other community schools you could go on the waiting list for?

All schools in this country have to teach RE to 16, are supposed to have a daily act of worship (which is broadly Christian unless it's another faith school), but you do have a right to withdraw.
Some faith schools do talk at visits as if you don't, because they expect to be oversubscribed and want to put off those who don't buy into the culture.
Admittedly at my DC's C of E school you would struggle to avoid all aspects of Christianity as it was embedded in the ethos and curriculum; mainly in the most natural way - try studying the Tudor's without mentioning religion. It also didn't have crosses around the school, did take the study of other religions seriously (including native american creation myths), and had lots of pupils of other and no faith.
They did probably have more "visitors" from various Christian churches than from other faiths, and have the odd service in Church.

mummytime Fri 22-Apr-16 10:52:41

madamginger - I would have been "that parent" too if creationism was taught in assembly - and I'm a Christian - just also a firm believer in Evolution etc.

Roomba Fri 22-Apr-16 10:53:38

I'm not sure about appealing once the decision has been made, but when we applied for DS1 years ago, we made it very clear in the 'other info' section that we had chosen our preferred school as we were not happy at all to have him attend a school with religious affiliation (whatever the law may say about acts of daily worship aside). We applied to the only local school which is a community primary, and also very oversubscribed. We also lived a fair way away. Whatever exP wrote must have worked as he was offered a place.

I imagine some Muslim families appeal on these grounds, does anyone know how successful they are generally?

Hope you get the info and help you need, OP. Good luck with your appeal.

meditrina Fri 22-Apr-16 11:07:54

"Whatever exP wrote must have worked as he was offered a place"

This is highly unlikely, even in the past, and under the current Admissions Code will not work. He wrote that, and you got a place does not mean they are linked in a causative way. You would have been offered a place (and nowadays can only be offered a place) if you came high enough up the criteria to qualify.

The box for reasons will only make a difference if you write something that is relevant to the admissions criteria. Examples would be 'Our elder DC was placed in this school as it was the only one with a vacancy when we moved here. You confirmed that our younger children would be treated as in-catchment siblings, as confirmed in Ms X's email of Y date" or "Applicant does not have a care plan, but is in a wheelchair. Our listed preferences are the nearest schools that are fully accessible in terms of width of doorways and single storey or adequate lifts. She would not be able to access education in any school that do not have this level of accessibility"

tiggytape Fri 22-Apr-16 11:20:57

As meditrina has said, R.E (or R.S) is compulsory in all state schools. In addition a daily act of collective worship of a broadly Christian worship is also compulsory in all state schools - not just faith schools. You can opt your child out of this (and some schools get a dispensation to have another form of worship eg if most pupils are another faith).

How overtly religious each school will be is as much down to the Head as to whether the school is officially a faith school or not since even non faith schools have to have Christian worship but some Heads embrace this much more than others (some just have thinking time and talk about treating others well whereas others will choose to have formal prayers, visits by vicars etc).

In short there is no such thing as a secular state school and it isn't automatic that all faith schools are more religious than all non faith schools

In terms of appeals, you are free to appeal to a school you prefer but disliking religious elements of the allocated school would not be grounds for a successful appeal. You are always appealing for a school not against another. If there are schools locally with fewer than 30 children per class that you like better, you could try those (with 30 per class, your chances would be very low due to class size laws). You also have the option of joining waiting lists.

Do visit the allocated school though or ring them if you want to know how they approach these issues and I am sure they will be able to reassure you

tiggytape Fri 22-Apr-16 11:30:01

What would be the position if a child from a muslim family was forced into such a school as yours?
Exactly the same. And Christian children sent to Jewish schools too. A few years ago in fact quite a lot of children were allocated a new Sikh school and the same applied i.e. the Sikh school was treated the same as any other state school and was allocated to many who hadn't qualified for other schools they'd asked for.

The debate has been going on for years but, as things stand and in terms of school admissions, a state Catholic school, state Jewish school or state Sikh school are no different to any other state school without a particular faith affiliation. It isn't possible to ask to avoid them any more than it is possible to write on the form "I only want an Ofsted outstanding or good school. I do not want my child educated at a school that is below that standard"

You can write what you want to on the forms but, unless it relates to information that puts you in a higher admissions category (eg a sibling thing or medical thing), it will be ignored. Otherwise everyone would include (or even invent) all sorts of reasons why they think they should get their preference when others can't.
If you write "I don't want a faith school" and you don't get one it will be because you luckily qualify for one you do want that year.

donadumaurier Fri 22-Apr-16 11:38:22

t4nut regardless of whether the OP named the school she's been allocated on her application, if she doesn't accept it the LA has no obligation to find her another place. So unless she plans to HE then yes, she absolutely should accept it.

t4gnut Fri 22-Apr-16 11:44:03

Fair point - I was just curious if she'd out this school as a preference. Quite unusual for faith schools to be so undersubscribed that unallocated children get a place.

GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 12:05:31

Yes, the faith school was in fact one we applied to. It was our lowest preference, but we live very close, and were advised against not applying to it (our catchment school), else "you could end up somewhere random, miles away". We are in a city where all local schools are oversubscribed.

We have also accepted it, because that doesn't affect place on reserve lists, or the ability the make an appeal. Apart from the faith aspect it is a "good" school, and we know some people at it who are happy enough.

We would rather he ends up at this faith school, with the potential to opt-out of various things, than the potential alternatives if we were to re-apply elsewhere. Obviously the ideal is we get an offer from one of the higher-preference schools due to being on reserve list.

It just seems unfair that you can get a priority at a faith school by expressing a preference for it, but not a preference for a non-faith school. But, if all schools are doing "daily act of worship", and some RE, and so on, then I suppose it's just a matter of the emphasis they put on it.

And it seems like an ICS appeal on these grounds is pointless.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice.


prh47bridge Fri 22-Apr-16 12:31:26

It just seems unfair that you can get a priority at a faith school by expressing a preference for it, but not a preference for a non-faith school

That simply isn't true. Wanting a faith school does not in any way give you priority for faith schools. The system for faith schools and non-faith schools is identical.

But, if all schools are doing "daily act of worship", and some RE, and so on, then I suppose it's just a matter of the emphasis they put on it.

That is absolutely true but it isn't necessarily the case that faith schools will put more emphasis on it. Some faith schools are considerably less religious than some non-faith schools.

tiggytape Fri 22-Apr-16 12:43:12

It just seems unfair that you can get a priority at a faith school by expressing a preference for it, but not a preference for a non-faith school.
You don't get priority for any school at all just by preferring it. You have to meet the criteria as well.

At most schools you cannot help whether you meet their criteria or not. You cannot magic up an older sibling or necessarily move house to live nearer the school
At some faith schools, it might be a bit easier to choose to meet one of the criteria eg their criteria might include church attendance and you might choose to attend church to tick that box (or you might already attend of course)

But even that won't get you a place unless you meet the criteria more fully than other people who also want a place so that might mean you also have to live within a set distance or have a sibling there already.

GingerC Fri 22-Apr-16 13:07:33

That simply isn't true. Wanting a faith school does not in any way give you priority for faith schools.

Ticking the "I'm applying for a church place" box will make you meet that criterion and will give you priority at that particular school over people who don't tick that box, who might live further away (assuming they don't meet some other higher priority criterion).

The leaflet says "Church places are offered for families who wish their child to be educated at a church of england school".

titchy Fri 22-Apr-16 13:23:09

Church places also have to have church attendance. You can't just tick the box.

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