BURY Church of England High School in Greater Manchester,
accused by the Accord Coalition of using admissions criteria that
were "indirectly racist", was cleared last week in a determination
by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA).
The OSA decision was the second in 12 months to decline to
uphold an objection by campaigners that aspects of the school's
admissions policy contravened Equality legislation.
The Accord Coalition, which made the second referral, is a group
of campaigning organisations opposed to religious tests for the
admission of pupils and employment of staff at voluntary aided
Its objection had argued that because Bury High School was
situated in a predominantly Pakistani Muslim area, its
oversubscription criteria giving priority - after looked-after
children and those with special needs - to applicants who attended
a Christian church, amounted to "indirect racism". Only four of the
school's 780 pupils were of Pakistani heritage, it said.
But OSA adjudications published last September and this month
ruled that the school's admissions criteria were proportionate to
its legitimate aim of offering a Christian education in the
Anglican tradition which emphasised the importance of attendance at
The school was not the only oversubscribed school in Bury, they
said. As the only C of E school in Bury, it served an area wider
than the immediate locality, a situation that was supported by head
teachers of neighbouring schools.
Manchester diocese's director of education, Maurice Smith, said
that the school's admission arrangements had been looked at twice
by the Schools Adjudicator after referrals by the Accord
"On each occasion, the Adjudicator confirmed that the school's
arrangements do not amount to indirect discrimination on the
grounds of race, and that they are in conformity with the
requirements relating to admissions," he said
Paul Pettinger, co-ordinator of the Accord Coalition, which had
seen the most recent OSA investigation of Bury High School as a
test case, said that last week's adjudication was "appalling".
The organisation was considering its options, one of which was
to seek a judicial review of the OSA determination.
Referrals by the Accord Coalition or its member organisations
often appear to target C of E schools for apparently minor and
unintentional infringements of admissions regulations. Recent
referrals include two concerning Bristol Cathedral School and
another involving Greycoat Academy, Westminster.
The organisation has also produced a map highlighting church
schools that, it said, took fewer black and ethnic minority and
disadvantaged pupils than neighbouring schools.
One of those named was Trinity High School, Manchester, where
more than 40 per cent of pupils qualify for free school meals and
the Pupil Premium paid for children from economically poor homes.
Of the 1200 pupils, only 250 are from a white British background.
An OFSTED report, rating the school outstanding, praised its
Although Roman Catholic schools tended to have stricter
church-attendance requirements than C of E schools, the Accord
Coalition had referred only one RC school to the OSA, Mr Pettinger
said. The organisation had looked into the arrangements at four
others, but had decided to take no action.