EARLIER this week, on Tuesday morning, the Vicar of St Luke's,
Kingston upon Thames, the Revd Martin Hislop, opened an envelope
that was lying on the doormat. The sender's name was missing, but
the package contained dog excrement wrapped in a cutting from
Monday's Daily Telegraph.
This had revealed that, today, the governors of St Luke's C of E
Primary School were to announce new admissions criteria that will
give priority to local children instead of those whose families
Mr Hislop, a foundation governor at the school, had persuaded
his fellow governors to initiate a consultation on the proposal to
put local children first. The new admissions procedure will make
distance from the school the main qualification for a place.
"This school was founded in the 19th century on the principles
of the National Society for the Education of the Poor, and I'd been
unhappy for some time that it was longer fulfilling that purpose,"
he said this week.
The school's admissions criteria made provision for local
children, but priority was given to siblings of current pupils, and
children from church families. Few places were left for those
living in the immediate neighbourhood. The same outcome applied to
the recent "bulge" class created to help with the area's shortage
of school places.
The primary school was less socially mixed than its two nursery
classes, Mr Hislop said. "The school admissions committee felt
frustrated at not being able to give places to children from the
nursery, who would clearly benefit socially, emotionally, and
educationally from progressing to the school, but had neither the
support to provide evidence of need, nor parents who could
demonstrate church attendance."
For four years, the parish administrator had kept a register of
church attendance. It showed that four out of five church
applicants stopped attending services regularly within months of
being allocated a school place.
The consultation drew a mixed response. Of the total 93 replies,
42 favoured the change, and 44 were opposed. Opposition was
stronger among the 38 St Luke's parents who took part: nine
supported the change, and 27 wanted the status quo. All but one of
the nine parents without children at St Luke's who responded were
in favour of change.
Most church schools in Southwark diocese retain some foundation
places, along with those for the local community, the deputy
director of education, Dr Carol Jerwood, said. "Admissions policy
is the responsibility of governors, and should enable the school to
meet its agreed purpose, how its distinctiveness is made manifest,
and whether the admission of Christian families plays a role in
The changes bring the school in line with the majority of C of E
schools, the Church's chief education officer, the Revd Nigel
Genders, pointed out this week.
"Most C of E schools do not prioritise their places on church
attendance," he said, "and those that do find room for children
from the local community. New C of E schools being established to
meet local need use distance for all or more than half their
places. Our schools are not faith schools for Christians, but
church schools for all."