Faith schools blasted on admissions
Poor pupils are more likely to get a place at Church of England secondary schools which do not select on religious grounds, according to a new study.
Figures released by the Fair Admissions Campaign showed Church of England comprehensives which do not select on faith admitted 4% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected compared to their area.
By contrast, Church of England schools whose admission criteria allowed for full selection on religious grounds admitted 31% fewer children on free school meals than would be expected for their area, the figures showed.
The statistics, based on comparison with population samples smaller than local authority boundaries, were included in analysis released by the campaign - which opposes selection of pupils by state schools on the basis of religion.
The figures from the campaign showed s ecular c omprehensive secondaries admitted 11% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas.
But comprehensive Church of England secondaries admitted 10% fewer, Roman Catholic secondaries 24% fewer, Jewish secondaries 61% fewer; and Muslim secondaries 25% fewer, according to the campaign figures.
Chairman of the Accord coalition for inclusive education Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: "This new research exposes the hypocrisy of those who claim religiously selective schools serve the community at large.
"It reveals that they not only further segregate children on religious and ethnic grounds, but also are skewed towards serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived.
"Crucially, the research also shows that the more a school is permitted to select children by faith, the greater the extent to which it is likely to socio-economically segregate.
"The data poses some very awkward questions for the state-funded faith school sector, especially as many people of faith are appalled that schools that should focus on the poor have become so elitist."
The figures were released after the head of education for the Church of England, Bishop John Pritchard insisted last month that Church of England schools were not dominated by white and middle class pupils.
Bishop Pritchard told the General Synod that 15% of pupils are eligible for free school meals at Church of England secondary schools, in line with the national average.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in an interview with The Times last month that Church of England schools were moving away from selecting pupils on the basis of their religion.
He later issued a statement saying he fully supported current policy for Church of England schools to set their own admissions criteria, including that of faith - and that his remarks did not indicate any change in policy.
Church of England chief education officer the Rev Jan Ainsworth said: "Two hundred years ago, the Church of England provided the first national system of schools, specifically designed to provide an education for the poor.
"Today, we remain proud of the way in which our schools enable children from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed.
"The latest national data, published in the Department for Education's 2013 School Census, shows that 15% of pupils at CofE secondary schools are eligible for free school meals.
"This is the same as the average for non-CofE schools.
"Church schools also reflect today's diverse society.
"The latest national data, published in the Department for Education's 2013 School Census, shows that our secondary schools serve almost exactly the same percentage of black or minority ethnic (BME) pupils as non-CofE secondary schools (CofE 25%, non-CofE 26%).
"Church schools are a central part of our mission to serve the common good. That is why around the country, they are open to children of Christian faith, of other faiths and of none.
"Over the next few years, one of our priorities will be to ensure that more children can benefit from the excellent education they provide."
A spokeswoman for the Catholic Education Service said: "The Catholic Church is the largest provider of secondary education in England, working in partnership with the Government.
"We support the policy of successive governments to uphold parental choice as a central part of the diverse education system.
"We aim to ensure that all Catholic schools provide high academic standards.
"Our schools reflect the multicultural nature of the Catholic community, many of whom come from the new and old migrant communities.
"Catholic schools have higher proportions of pupils from ethnic minorities than other state schools.
"Catholic schools have larger than average catchment areas which promote greater social integration and community cohesion across a wider area."