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School forced to change rules after parents cheat

01 May 2015


Posed by models 

Posed by models 

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 attend church.

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 securing it."

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."

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