TUESDAY 28 April seemed much the same as any other day. Until,
that is, I picked up an envelope lying on the doormat. It contained
dog excrement, wrapped in a cutting from the previous day's
Daily Telegraph, which carried a news story about a change
to the admissions policy at our local school, St Luke's C of E
Foundation Primary in Kingston upon Thames (News, 1
I had never expected to receive such a package as a result of a
move I initiated in November 2014, when a regular meeting of the St
Luke's governing body had on the agenda an item asking the
governors to consider the admissions policy for September 2016.
As the Vicar of St Luke's, I have been an ex-officio foundation
governor of the school for 15 years, and have previously chaired
the school-admission committee. I am also a member of the borough's
school admissions forum.
I have always been a staunch defender of church schools within
the state sector. In 2006, I clashed with the then Liberal Democrat
Member for Richmond Park, Jenny Tonge (now Baroness Tonge), over
her criticism of faith schools. I am aware of a sustained campaign
in some humanist and secularist quarters to undermine and eliminate
OVER the past five or so years, however, I have become concerned
about the impact of the school's admission policy, where priority
is given to a proportion of children on the basis of the church
attendance of their parents. After much thought and prayer, I
suggested to the governors that we should open the admission policy
to consultation, and consider a proposal to remove any
Nothing prepared me for what was to come.
The consultation was set to run from December through to late
March, in accordance with the statutory provisions. The school
notified parents, the local authority, the diocese, local schools,
and the wider community of the consultation, and I wrote a letter
to current school parents and to parishioners.
A storm of agitation and aggressive comment was unleashed
through social media. Within days, the school received letters that
read like solicitors' warnings of litigation ahead. Comments in the
playground and on Facebook and Twitter warned of the school's
ceasing to be Christian.
Over the next weeks and months, the climate of hostility and
misrepresentation increased. A public meeting was convened by the
governors, and individuals were encouraged to provide written
comments to the governors.
As it turned out, however, despite all the angst and complaints
from a small but vociferous small group, only one parent bothered
to approach me to ask me why I contemplated such a change.
WHEN the submissions to the consultation were collated, it was
found that, of a school of 240 pupils, only 38 parents chose to
make a representation: 21 against a change, and seven in
The governors met in April to make a decision. In light of the
anxiety raised, and comments made at the public meeting that this
decision was too much too quickly, I asked permission to withdraw
the motion to allow a further consultation, with a view to
deferring any change in admissions to 2017.
The governors declined to accept that withdrawal, and proceeded
to vote 11-0 in favour of dropping the church-attendance
The professional staff and the governors remain committed to the
Christian ethos of the school, and this change will not adversely
affect that ethos.
The level of angst - and outright unchristian - comment that
attended this consultation and decision has left a mark on me, and,
more importantly, on my outstanding head teacher and her staff.
Nevertheless, I believe that we have acted for the good of St
Luke's School, for the local community it seeks to serve, and, most
importantly, for the gospel values and mission imperative of our