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Can I refuse a faith school place?

(22 Posts)
BlooDeBloop Fri 03-May-19 15:02:52

Hello good people,

I am moving to a new area next month - one child has been accepted at the local school, the other child's class is full. They have offered a place at the next nearest school but it is C o E with an overt 'Christian ethos' as far as I can tell on the website.

Can I refuse this place based on ethical objections to a faith-based education? We are a family of committed atheists.

Also does anyone have any tips for a successful appeal?

OP’s posts: |
Ivegotthree Fri 03-May-19 15:07:36

Yes if you're willing to home educate, of course you can.

Mrsjayy Fri 03-May-19 15:10:45

Of course you can you just tell them you are non believers but it won't automatically give her a place at the other preferred school sadly.

sugarbum Fri 03-May-19 15:11:22

You won't win an appeal on that basis, no. Have you checked the LA website for availability at other schools?

TragicallyUnbeyachted Fri 03-May-19 15:11:33

Humanists UK say (https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017-04-19-BHA-guide-for-non-religious-parents.pdf):
> It should be noted, however, that
> unfortunately appeals on the grounds that
> you do not wish your child to be sent to a
> religious school are almost never successful.
> As the School Admissions Appeals Code
> states, whilst ‘the Human Rights Act 1998
> confers a right of access to education’, ‘this
> right does not extend to securing a place at
> a particular school.’

So you can refuse it but then they will have discharged their obligation to find your DC a place and won't have to offer another one. I think you can opt to home educate while waiting for a place to come up in your preferred school (I am slightly vague on how you do that) but obviously that may never happen.

Humanists UK do helpfully add:
> If you would be interested in exploring the
> idea of taking a legal case to challenge
> this situation, please get in touch with the
> Humanists UK.

so you could try your hand at being a test case for them if no one else has volunteered yet.

Fudgenugget Fri 03-May-19 15:12:48

It's unfortunate that the CofE run so many schools.

meditrina Fri 03-May-19 15:12:50

You can refuse the place, but the LEA is not obliged to come up with an alternative. They may however be able to tell you if there are other schools (which may be further away) with vacancies.

How old is the elder DC. If the appeal is under ICS rules, then it wouid be extremely hard to win unless you can show a mistake has been made (which is unlikely for an in-year application if it is full)

Mrsjayy Fri 03-May-19 15:15:48

You could accept the place and withdraw her from all R E i am sure that is what other non christian parents do if they don't want their dc praying etc

BlooDeBloop Fri 03-May-19 15:18:26

Wow, fantastic response. Thank you so much.

I would rather home-ed than send to a faith school - I'm not trying to pull as fast one to get child to preferred school. Depending on the outcome of the appeal, I may well contact the humanists, thank you Tragic.

Other schools in catchment are further away - would the LEA (sorry - outdated term - not sure what new one is) pick up the tab - would this cost factor into an appeal?

Thanks for all your responses, sage people.

OP’s posts: |
meditrina Fri 03-May-19 15:23:07

No, you are ineligible for free transport because you opt for a school further away.

The logistics and cost of the school run aren't considered in appeals (unless there exceptional reasons such as mobility issues).

BlooDeBloop Fri 03-May-19 15:23:11

My child is 8 meditrina.

It's not looking hopeful is it?

I'm very sad about it at the older DC finds making friends and settling into new environments very difficult. If he goes to a further away school and later gets offered a place in the nearer one, he'll be settling in twice over. His younger sister is far more resilient and extrovert. Poor DS.

OP’s posts: |
Wearywithteens Fri 03-May-19 15:31:01

CofE schools are not faith schools. They are ‘schools with a religious character’. Your child would be exposed to Christian values but would not be expected to adhere to the faith. CofE schools are supposed to be inclusive of all faiths and none.

meditrina Fri 03-May-19 15:37:33

That's a positive thing - at that age the appeal will not be under ICS rules and you can appeal on the 'balance of prejudice' (ie the benefit for your DC attending the school you want outweighs the detriment to the pupils in the school from going over numbers)

First key point - you are appealing for the school you want, not against the currently offered one.

Two things you need to do

a) find out how many pupils there are in the year group? Are they at the permitted admission number (PAN) or are they already over it? What size are the other year groups in the school? (You are looking to see if they can cope with year groups over PAN. If already stuffed to the gunnels, an appeal is harder to win but it's worth knowing what the actual situation is (the school will be saying it's full and cannot cope with more - you might be able to show that actually they can and have)

b) what is it about this school that makes it a better fit for your DC? You need to show the benefits. One obvious point is that as newcomers, being at the same school as a sibling is important socially, as your family settles in. Than look for things about the school: good pastoral care (nurture groups? buddy system for new arrivals?) offered by desired school not current school. You can make the point about it being aligned with family ethos, but remember that's not an appeal winning argument (a Christian family preferring a faith school to a more secular one is in the same situation)

Look at curriculum - does desired school teach languages your DC has already started? Have extension activities or clubs in areas in which your DC has interest/ability? (for example, if your child is musical and one school has a choir and the other doesn't)

BlooDeBloop Fri 03-May-19 15:46:35

Interesting Weary. The school website has pages on 'our Christian ethos' 'our church' and so on. There is a daily 'collective worship' some of which take place at the local church. If I were a muslim I would classify this school a faith school. In fact, as an atheist I do. I could pull DS out of the collective worship. But then I remember a JW at my primary school and she was pulled out of the school assembly. It always felt like she was different because of this. As I said my DS is a rather extreme introvert. Pulling him out of something everyone else is participating in would seem cruel to me. Yet asking him to sit through workshops where he has to write prayers seems to me extremely wrong.

OP’s posts: |
BlooDeBloop Fri 03-May-19 15:52:28

I'm taking notes meditrina. Very heartened that something will be arguable at least.

Well, yes, DS is fluent in French. That is one thing. We visited the school and it has a small school, caring feel (but I'm sure the CoE would be similarly caring). The school we want offers lots of extra clubs and music lessons - however DS is not open to those things at the moment (he is an introverted 'engineer-brain' type child). His current school is the opposite to what the new one could offer - he has never had the opportunity to develop extra-circ things - one major reason we are moving!

OP’s posts: |
WoWsers16 Sun 05-May-19 23:05:56

CofE Schools do have Christian and church values- however they also cater for all:
I work at a CofE school with many different faiths and beliefs (children, their families and staff) ranging from atheists, plymouth brethren, Muslim etc... We teach every religion, and if parents want to take out their child from church events they can (however these are lovely Easter, Christmas and Harvest Services) also they are not obliged to join in collective Worship.
I’m not churchy as such- and I wouldn’t say my school is rediculously religious- I just think, like many cofE schools in the area, there are extra values there relating to church- however this links to real life anyway.
Have a look around the school- honestly I think with an open mind you’ll be fine smile at the end of the day they all have the same curriculum to follow (I know some schools like independent schools don’t) and I would give it a chance xx

ShowOfHands Sun 05-May-19 23:13:40

Where I am, all schools within a 30 mile radius are CofE. They aren't faith schools. They're just like my primary school of the 80s. Broadly Christian with assemblies and nativities and harvest festivals but teach all faiths. Most DC attending are atheist tbh. Some are other faiths entirely. My DC are happily atheist.

itsaboojum Tue 07-May-19 07:16:18

Whilst wearywithteens is ostensibly correct about what CofE schools are supposed to be and do, you may well find an individual CofE school doesn’t comply with that in practice.

Our local CofE primary pushes the Christian (with a capital C) message hard. Children are disciplined for saying OMG on a par with strong swearing, and told off for questioning Christian beliefs or the 'facts' of the bible. Children are told they have to use the classroom 'reflection corner' for prayer.

The head says all the right things to reassure anyone who has concerns about this. After all, he knows it’s all well beyond what is meant by "Christian in character". But he has accidentally let slip that he sees the role of the school as one of ensuring that the "children become Christians."

BreconBeBuggered Tue 07-May-19 11:55:45

I'd agree that the ethos of each individual school is more important than the label. My local C of E school doesn't have a single committed Christian on the teaching staff, and the foundation governors, whilst fulfilling their role in ensuring Christian values are taught throughout the school, see themselves as serving the community on behalf of the Church rather than moulding the children. As this is important to you, don't make the mistake of assuming that non-church schools are staffed by people without faith. They also have an obligation to conduct Christian worship.

Carolcool Tue 07-May-19 12:19:09

Reading with interest, OP. I live in a town with 3 church schools and 1 secular school. DP and I are atheists and against faith schooling. I have no idea how to try to get DD into the secular school. Our nearest is Catholic. I feel like we could possibly stomach C of E but not Catholic schooling. We have a couple of years before she goes but already concerned.

nowseeherefella Tue 07-May-19 12:23:34

Go and visit the school, ask for a tour and a discussion with the head or member of senior staff. Schools show prospective parents around all the time, and that's what you are. You can't judge a school based on its website.

Birdsfoottrefoil Wed 08-May-19 11:27:14

The difference between the CoE school and the local school is the CoE School is denominational and the local school is non-denominational. They are both meant to have assemblies that are broadly Christian in character.

I would also say it is not ‘unfortunate’ that the Church of England stepped forward to set up schools and provide education to children across the country at a time when the government didn’t think this necessary.

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