Faith schools have been charged with being selective again in medireports. David Jesson disagrees, says Margaret Holness
CLAIMS THAT church schools renamed "faith" schools in edu-speak to takaccount of the handful with a minority faith foundation are "divisive" an"selective" surfaced again this month in the interpretation of a report frothe National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
Sponsored by the Local Government Association, the report was based on aanalysis of existing NFER data on more than six million pupils in 20,68schools in England.
Its findings were highly qualified. It reported that voluntary aided primarschools (of which most, but not all, are church schools) admitted "slightllower proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals" and "a slightllower proportion of black and ethnic minority pupils". At the same timevoluntary aided, foundation, and voluntary controlled schools, most of whicare church schools, "tended to admit a slightly higher proportion of higheability pupils".
Press coverage of the report appeared to inflate the differences. A piece iThe Times Educational Supplement said "researchers found that faith anfoundation schools, which can control their admissions, are some of the mossocially selective in England". At the same time, it acknowledged that threcent category of academies (many of which are sponsored wholly or in part bthe Church of England) take a higher proportion of disadvantaged children thaany other type of secondary school.
The findings of a private study of schools in Greater London, commissioneby the National Society from Professor David Jesson of York University, providfurther evidence with which to dismiss the charge of selectivity. MargareHolness
There are about 400 secondary schools in London, writes David Jesson, amonwhich are several academies, a few city technology colleges, and grammaschools. We omitted these from our study, because they have atypical admissionarrangements.
The schools included are all comprehensive, but with distinctive differencein governance. Our study included 194 community schools; 68 foundation schools107 voluntary aided (VA) schools and four voluntary controlled (VC) school(which have similar admissions arrangements to community schools). Of thvoluntary aided schools, ten were "secular" schools, 25 C of E, and 72 o"other denominations and other faiths". Most of the latter were RC foundationswith a handful sponsored by minority faiths.
The study compared the different types of school for the percentage opupils receiving free school meals (an indicator of deprivation), and Englisas a second language, with their performance at GCSE. It also compared GCSresults with prior attainment.
An analysis of GCSE results showed that 48 per cent of pupils at communitand VC schools achieved five or more A-C passes, compared with 59 per cent afoundation and secular VA schools, and 66 per cent overall at aided faitschools. The figure for C of E schools was 59 per cent.
Faith schools substantially out-performed all other types of school in thcapital. While some of the concerns about these schools require furtheinvestigation, it is vitally important that this is acknowledged.
Are faith schools socially selective? Our research showed that across Londo23 per cent of pupils receive free school meals. The figure for C of E schoolwas 22 per cent, compared with 28 per cent at community schools, 17 per cent afoundation and secular voluntary aided schools, and 15 per cent at other faitschools.
The London-wide average for pupils with English as an additional language i33 per cent. C of E figures stand at 31 per cent, compared with 38 per cent focommunity and VC schools, 29 per cent at secular VA and foundation schools, an24 per cent at other faith schools.
These findings, related to social deprivation, demolish the myth that C of schools are socially divisive;
the data show clearly that they almost exactly mirror the communities theserve.
Another important aspect is the attainment of pupils on entry, as measurein Key Stage 2 standard attainment tests. The London-wide average score i26.6, compared with 27.3 for C of E schools, 26 for community schools, 27.1 fofoundation and secular VA schools, and 27.3 for other faith schools.
Thus we see that all schools which are their own admissions authoritie(foundation and VA) have intakes with higher pupil attainment than the Londoaverage, while community schools have lower scores.
It is clear that faith-school intakes are virtually identical to those onon-faith foundation and secular VA schools. There is no substance in the claithat C of E schools recruit selectively in comparison with similar schools.
We also need to know how well these schools do when their differing sociaand attainment statistics are taken into account. The Governments annua"value-added" measure provides the necessary tool. This measure (contextuavalue added) is set at 1000, where a schools performance matches exactly whawould be expected from its pupil community. The London-wide average is 1008.7The average score at C of E schools, and all faith schools, is 1010.2. Thicompares with 1006.0 at community schools, and 1006.5 at foundation and seculaVA schools.
This measure provides evidence of the additional progress made by pupils ifaith schools of any type, and affirms the contribution they make to the systeas a whole.
Using the OFSTED framework: pupils make "outstanding progress" in more thahalf of the C of E schools in the capital. While many other London schools als"do well", it is clear that faith schools do better.
Professor David Jesson FRSS is Visiting Professor at the Department oEconomics, University of York.