Church urged to end faith selection
A group of Anglican clergy and laypeople have issued an open letter urging Church of England schools to stop selecting pupils based on their faith.
They claim the system is open to abuse and many oversubscribed schools reject non-churchgoing families even though they may live nearby.
But a spokesman for the Church claimed the arguments set out in the letter were "flawed and inaccurate".
The letter, which was published in the Guardian, refers to a 2011 survey commissioned by the Sutton Trust which found 6% of parents admitted they had attended church services purely so their child could go to a local church school. The figure rose to 10% of upper middle class parents.
The signatories stated: " On a superficial level this is in the Church's interest, as attendance figures in many parishes are inflated and the standard of our schools boosted by the admittance of children from more affluent families.
"Ultimately however the universality of the Church is being turned to the advantage of those who are already advantaged. We believe this issue presents a slow-burning crisis.
"We urge the Church to review and then amend its national guidance on pupil admissions, so that schools are guided towards having open admission arrangements."
The signatories include Christina Baron, lay member of the General Synod, Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield Labour MP since 1979, and Theo Hobson, a theologian and religious commentator.
A Church spokesman said: " The arguments set out in the letter are so flawed and inaccurate they need to be placed in special measures. The interpretation of the data cited is mistaken and the arguments doctrinaire."
Rev Nigel Genders, the Church's chief education officer, responded by explaining the Church's secondary schools have an average of 10% selection by religious criteria and some have more pupils on free school meals than the national average.
He said: "Anyone visiting our schools across the country will see a range of pupils from all faiths and none, and from all backgrounds.
"We run Christian schools for everyone, providing an inclusive and effective education, we are not - as the article seems to imply - running schools for middle class Christians."