THE Office of the Schools Adjudicator has told Greycoat Church
of England Academy, Westminster, that it must not take account of
family involvement in church activities such as flower-arranging or
leading evening groups when allocating places, because the practice
could disadvantage single-parent families. The Academy must change
its admissions policy, the adjudicator has directed.
Although the ruling applies specifically to Greycoat Academy, it
could have implications for other schools with a religious
character. Similar points systems are, however, rare among church
schools. According to a recent survey of C of E secondary schools,
three in four offer more than half their places without using any
faith criteria. "Those that do so must comply with the admissions
code, and it is in the rarest of circumstances that this is
referred to the adjudicator," a spokesman for the Board of
National Society admissions guidelines advise schools not to use
complex points systems, and to simplify criteria relating to church
The Determination was published last November, but received
little publicity at the time. The adjudicator, David Lennard Jones,
partially upheld objections by an unnamed member of the public to
the admissions criteria at Greycoat, a sought-after girls' school
founded in 1698. It regularly receives more than 960 applications
for its 150 first-year places.
The school gives priority to "looked-after" children, or those
who have formerly been looked after; then to children who have
attended three named feeder schools or who live in three local
parishes; then to those with sisters at the school.
A further 15 places are reserved for applicants with a
particular aptitude for languages. Applicants for the remaining
places had, in the past, received additional points for family
involvement for church activities.
The adjudicator agreed with the objector that this practice was
unfair to applicants whose parents, particularly single parents,
had little spare time. "Single-parent families might find it
harder, as might some two-parent families to get involved in church
activities that required babysitting or involved financial outlay,"
the Determination said.
The adjudicator did not, however, uphold a further objection
that aspects of the school's academic banding arrangements were
In a statement to the adjudicator, Greycoat said that two-thirds
of pupils were from ethnic-minority families, and more than one in
four received free school meals. The points system for
church-related activities had been discussed with three
non-Anglican Christian churches, and were intended to give
committed families the best chance of obtaining a place at the
But it has emerged that the Greycoat Academy Trust had
disregarded advice from London Diocesan Board for Schools that its
points system did not comply with guidelines. The trust had also
insisted that clergy referring applicants confirmed five years of
previous church attendance rather than the two years recommended by
the diocese, the Determination revealed.
Liz Wolverson, LDBS's head of school-support services, said:
"Since the Determination, we have worked closely with Greycoat
Academy to ensure they comply with the admissions code, and
maintain their social and educational mix."
In the past, it was not uncommon for popular church schools to
favour applicants with church involvement.
In the same way, community activities such as leading youth
organisations sometimes helped families gain places at
oversubscribed local-authority schools. Such practices are now
ruled inadmissible by the national Schools Admissions code.
Although academies and voluntary aided schools are responsible
for their own admissions criteria, they have to comply with the
code. Church schools are legally required to consult their diocese
before making admissions arrangements, and follow diocesan