SCHOOLS that apply religious criteria for admissions continue to
discriminate against poorer and ethnic-minority pupils, whatever
their faith background, those who have commissioned a new survey
The Fair Admissions Campaign - a grouping that includes the
British Humanist Association, and the Socialist Education
Association, both opposed to faith schools - says that, by
comparing the intake of schools on a geographical basis, its survey
suggests that Church of England schools take ten per cent fewer
children eligible for free school meals than the local average,
Roman Catholics 24 per cent fewer, Muslims 25 per cent fewer, and
Jewish schools 61 per cent fewer.
The Fair Admissions Campaign says that its survey undermines
statistics from the Department for Education, released last month,
which showed that the figures for C of E schools were broadly
comparable with community schools.
The C of E's chief education officer, the Revd Jan Ainsworth,
criticised the Campaign's use of the statistics as "wilful
misrepresentation". She said: "We do not recognise the picture of
church schools the survey paints. We are proud of the way in which
our schools enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds to
The survey has also angered the heads of church schools in
challenging areas. David Ainsworth, the head of Trinity C of E High
School, Manchester, listed in the survey as one of the worst
offenders because 100 per cent of its places are offered on faith
grounds, said: "We don't demand that our pupils are Christians -
just that they have a faith."
Comments in the most recent OFSTED report confirms Trinity's
multicultural make-up: "The majority of students are from mixed
ethnic backgrounds, mainly black British, African, and Caribbean.
This is well above the national average." The school also has a
higher-than-average percentage of children eligible for free school
meals, and pupils with statements of special educational need, the
OFSTED report adds.
The director of school-support services at the London Diocesan
Board for Schools, Elizabeth Wolverson, said that more than half
the pupils at the 19 secondary schools in the London diocese are of
black and ethnic-minority heritage; almost one in four (23.7 per
cent) receive free school meals; and 32 per cent do not have
English as a home language.
In some secondary schools, the figures are much higher, Mrs
Wolverson said. At St Augustine's, Kilburn, recently rated
"outstanding" by OFSTED, 719 of the 768 pupils are from black or
ethnic-minority backgrounds, and 589 receive free school meals. The
same criteria apply to more than half the pupils at St Marylebone
Writing in The Daily Telegraph last week, the Bishop of
Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, chairman of the Board of
Education, criticised the use of "the distorted lens of secularist
groups" to claim that church schools select by the back door.
"One of the great accusations against church schools is that
they are predominantly for white, middle-class pupils. The
statistics tell a different story."
A statement from the Catholic Education Service said that its
schools consistently take a higher than average proportion of black
and ethnic-minority pupils.