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Church schools' admissions procedures under attack

10 April 2015


A SUGGESTION that the admissions system at many Church of England schools is being misused has been strongly dismissed.

A letter to The Guardian last week said that middle-class parents were attending services in order to gain places for their children. The letter, from a group of Anglican clergy and lay people, said that official Church of England guidance on admissions should ban admissions criteria that reserved places for children whose families attend church. Wealthy parents were playing the system to secure places in schools built for the poor, it said.

Among the signatories are Jonathan Bartley and Simon Barrow, the directors of the pressure group Ekklesia; the Revd Professor Keith Ward, former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford; and Barry Sheerman, a lay canon at Wakefield Cathedral, who chaired the House of Commons education select committee from 1999 to 2010.

The content of the letter was inaccurate, and the arguments were doctrinaire, a C of E spokesman said.

The letter was based on an article by Dr Theo Hobson, published in the New Statesman on 4 March, quoting disputed evidence, from 2013, from the Sutton Trust.

Commenting on the article in his blog last month, the Church's chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said that it repeated an old, factually incorrect argument that church schools did not help the poorest, but were full of middle-class children.

"The majority of church schools do not prioritise their places on the basis of church attendance," he said, "and most of those that do still make places available to children from the immediate community."

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