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Religious schools - beating the system

(17 Posts)
preschoolprimadonna Wed 19-Apr-17 14:04:12

This is mostly a lighthearted post and I have no intention at all of carrying this out... BUT...

There is an excellent local secondary school just outside of our catchment which is CofE. I am a massive, massive atheist and am vehemently opposed to religion forming entry criteria (and indeed the practising of religion within schools).

Putting aside the huge hypocrisy for a moment, bear with me...

If you are outside of catchment you will still likely be offered a place if your parents have attended church at least twice a month for three years. Vom, but OK.

In order to prove this, you print off a form which the vicar signs, and you return to your school.

Are you seriously telling me that the council then writes to every church (no space on the form for phone number) to double-check this? What's to stop a feckless parent (me) from forging this with some church in Little Dribbling?

Part of me feels it would be justified to beat the stupid system that allows selection based on faith. (The rest of me knows it's massively hypocritical to want your child to get into a faith school if you're an atheist.)

By the way, my eldest is not yet 5, so we have a way to go... And I am not actually going to do this.

If you do see me in the Daily Mail in about six years time, you heard it hear first.

preschoolprimadonna Wed 19-Apr-17 14:04:35

*heard it here first, naturally.

Rudi44 Wed 19-Apr-17 14:13:58

We have a similar situation (my DD is yr 6) our closest school is Cof E and is one of the best schools in the city (never mind the fact that the area we live in as badly served for state comprehensive). My niece goes to this school and had to submit a reference signed by her church (which she attended in order to get into the school) which was absolutely checked by the School as part of admissions.
Being non-religious there is no way I would send her to this school (unless maybe if hell freezes over ;-)) they devote far too much time (plus a GCSE) to RE. But there are definitely lots and lots of people who attend church in order to secure a place at this school. I haven't done this on principle and we have now been allocated an under performing school and going through the nightmare of appeals but I don't look back and wish that I had done things differently.

meditrina Wed 19-Apr-17 14:28:51

The CofE schools which have faith criteria are VA schools (VC ones are fully community criteria, so not relevant for your query).

VA schools are (and always have been) their own admissions authority, and are responsible for ranking all applicants according to the admissions criteria. The LA does not do that for any school that is its own admissions authority, so your point about the LA not checking is misplaced.

And yes, they will check that the info on the Supplementary Information Form (which, incidentally, is sent straight from vicar to the school so parents do not have a chance to fiddle with it) if there is anything they are not sure about. Most applications will be local, even if not from the defined catchment, so they probably know all the local prelates.

preschoolprimadonna Wed 19-Apr-17 15:38:19

You are quite correct... except the form says that it should be returned by the parent to the school, not by the vicar.

I'm sure it's feasible that a parent could attend a church at a distance a couple of times a month. Grandparents' house etc.

SaltyMyDear Wed 19-Apr-17 15:45:19

But they don't have to check all the forms - only the form that looks suspicious.

99% of the forms will have the same signature on it. So your hypothetical form would stand out a mile, and they would check it.

meditrina Wed 19-Apr-17 16:07:20

It's quite unusual for forms to be returned by the parent.

But it can still be checked, and probably will be if it is for an unfamiliar parish or anything about it looks odd.

meditrina Wed 19-Apr-17 16:16:20

It's also unusual for secondary school for it to be parental attendance, not that of prospective pupil.

Has this school in recent years ever actually reached the criterion of 'faith qualified out of catchment'. You say it's possible, but does it actually happen?

(I'm assuming the running order is something like: faith qualified siblings, faith qualified in catchment, other siblings in catchment, other catchment, faith qualified out of catchment, siblings out of catchment, other out of catchment).

preschoolprimadonna Wed 19-Apr-17 16:25:03

It's an odd one actually. After looked after kids, It's catchment children first, regardless of faith, then faith children, regardless of parish. Then it's siblings. After that it's children of non-C of E faiths, who can get a minister to sign. Then it's exceptional circumstances. Finally it's distance

And it's definitely parents' attendance, not children's.

Piratesandpants Wed 19-Apr-17 16:27:10

But then why would you want your child to attend the school? There's likely to be religion involved confused

picklemepopcorn Wed 19-Apr-17 16:54:59

Does anyone know why faith schools tend to do better than mainstream?

meditrina Wed 19-Apr-17 17:40:00

I don't think anyone knows.

CofE schools are such a large slice of schools that they're actually formative of the 'norm' of the typical school. And although there are leafy one colonised by the middle classes (and everyone seems to know at least one) there is also a normal share of those with adverse demographics.

One would say it's because of the ethos, if that was formed by anything other than religion. But because it is, it seems that can never be mentioned and other reasons found.

I don't know if this is still the case, but a few years ago, in RC secondary schools demographically matched to community schools, there was a much lower rate of pupils permanently excluded. It can't be covert selection - because of the demographic matching. So perhaps it is something in the ethos.

CaulkheadNorth Wed 19-Apr-17 17:47:01

I work for a church. Local schools here will request baptism forms and/or will call and check about 75% of forms filled out. This is for primary and middle, usually for children out of catchment.

PositiveAttitude Wed 19-Apr-17 18:20:45

The LA will know the ministers/vicars who sign the forms and will be well used to seeing their signatures. If you forge this it would be fraud and I am sure you would be caught out.

cantkeepawayforever Wed 19-Apr-17 18:33:40

Pickle, I think that any school that requires 'something extra' - a form to sign, a test to take, a baptism to arrange by 6 months - selects, simply by having that form, for more organised, more involved parents. Organised, involved parents will tend to be good supportive parents for a schoolchild to have, hence the school will do better.

Think about it in reverse - who will schools with religious criteria, especially those that require attendance at a place of worship over a period of time or a certificate of baptism from an early age, tend to exclude? Families in temporary accommodation or vulnerably housed, children in care, chaotic families or those in which one or both adults is substance addicted, refugee families, Gypsy/Roma/ Traveller families .... Children from such families may well absorb a significant amount of school time and resource in dealing with associated problems, and so reducing their numbers has both a direct effect and an indirect effect in terms of time available to focus on other children.

A further factor for Catholic schools is that IME many attract a number of children from specific immigrant communities who have a very strong work ethic and see education as a route to success in their new country - but that one is more anecdotal and based on my personal observation. It may not be borne out elsewhere.

cantkeepawayforever Wed 19-Apr-17 19:12:48

(I have worked in a VC school, with no additional entry criteria, and i would say that it was exactly representative, both in intake and results, of the community it served. It is faith schools with additional entry criteria, that are less representative of the community and likely to get the 'selection by engagement' effect)

picklemepopcorn Wed 19-Apr-17 21:04:48

I think my area's faith schools are catchment first, faith next, so ought to reflect the community pretty closely. in terms of where students go, my experience has been that each year group from my village primary seems to find its own preference- so one year most go to school A, the next most go to school B. Every year a few go to school C. School A seems to do best academically, school C seems more pastorally supportive... I'm not sure what school Bs strength is.

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