Church school admission plan hailed

Proposals to make Church of England schools admit more pupils who do not follow the faith have been widely welcomed.

Calling for a major shake-up of admissions rules, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, said policies which favour religious children should be changed, even if it affects a school's exam results.

He urged headteachers to reserve no more than 10% of places for youngsters who are practising Anglicans.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement, Rev Pritchard, who is chairman of the Church of England's board of education, said: "Every school will have a policy that has a proportion of places for church youngsters... what I would be saying is that number ought to be minimised because our primary function and our privilege is to serve the wider community.

"Ultimately I hope we can get the number of reserved places right down to 10%."

The move would be a major shift for the Church, and it could also lead to an end to the practice of parents attending church to secure their child a school place.

Under current admissions rules faith schools can choose how to allocate places, for example to followers of their faith, if they are over-subscribed.

The Church of England has around 4,800 schools, and the majority are primaries. It is believed that around half of CofE schools are voluntary aided, which means they set their own admissions policies.

Rev Pritchard said he recognised that urging schools to change their admissions policies may not be popular with everyone.

However, the suggestion was welcomed by the National Secular Society, whose president Terry Sanderson said: "The Church has repeatedly denied that the strict selection criteria that are applied in some schools are the reason they perform so well.

"We are told that it is because of the 'Christian ethos'. Now the cat is out of the bag and the Bishop of Oxford has let us know that the Church is fully aware of why their schools perform so well."

He added: "Parents who access these schools won't be too thrilled to see them opened up to the community at large. We've all heard of pushy, non-religious parents suddenly becoming regular church-goers in order to get a letter from the vicar that is the 'open sesame' to the local church school."

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chair of Accord, which campaigns to end religious discrimination in school staffing and admissions, said: "This is a very welcome step that attempts to help rectify current policy, which means that religion and discrimination in schools have become almost synonymous.

"Schools should be inclusive and tolerant and no state-funded school should be allowed to discriminate on the grounds of religion for any of their teacher posts or any pupil places."

The Church is expected to publish new admissions guidelines in the summer.

Gillean Craig, the vicar of St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington, west London, said he was "incandescent" that the issue of school admissions had been raised on Good Friday.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World At One, he added the idea had not been thought through.

"Today is Good Friday, today the Christian church focuses on the suffering and death of Jesus, and in that it talks about the involvement of God and the suffering and death and agony of our world which presses in on every side," he said.

"The last thing we should be thinking about today is schools admissions.

"So, I am incandescent at the sheer level of incompetence displayed by some senior members of the Church of England who seem to have no idea about how their words will be taken up by the media.

"I feel furious about this."

Asked about the proposal, he added: "I think it's simply not been thought through at all, communities throughout Britain vary enormously.

"In some there are very large numbers of people who worship at a Church of England church, in some areas there is virtually no-one, and I think it's absolutely right that different church schools will reflect that different community that they serve."

Ibrahim Hewitt, spokesman for the Association of Muslim Schools, expressed concern the Church of England was being led by a secularist agenda regarding faith schools.

"The Church of England should be setting a lead and not bending to what is very much a secularist agenda to very much try to get rid of faith schools," he said.

"Church schools and other faith schools should be very clear in saying that people are welcome to come to our schools but we are a faith school, this is the kind of education your children will get.

"If you're happy with that, you're welcome. If you're not happy with that, go to one of the ordinary state schools, of which there are plenty."

Dr Oona Stannard, head of the Catholic Education Service, said they would not be changing their stance on admissions.

Catholic schools were originally set up to "provide an education in the Catholic faith for Catholic children", she said.

Around a third of the pupils who attend Catholic schools are not of the faith, Dr Stannard said, because places are available and families want to take them up, respecting the Church's values.

"Our central purpose of educating Catholic children remains at the forefront of our mission," she said.

"I believe that, through the excellence of the education we provide, and the great popularity of our schools, that the type of education we provide is a service to society."

There are around 2,300 Catholic schools in England.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), welcomed the Bishop's comments and said faith schools should be for the whole community, not just followers of the faith.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'