‘No criteria issues with city's faith schools'

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: ‘No criteria issues with city's faith schools' ‘No criteria issues with city's faith schools'

Segregation caused by the religious admission criteria of faith schools is “not a massive issue” in Bradford, according to some of the city’s leading education figures.

Research published yesterday by the Fair Admissions Campaign group, which wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, claimed that 13 per cent of all secondary school places across the UK were subject to some form of religious selection criteria.

The report also found that faith schools, on average, typically admitted 27 per cent fewer children eligible for free school meals, suggesting a link between religious and socio-economic selection.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chairman of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, an organisation that supports the campaign, 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.”

In the Bradford district, only 11 per cent of secondary school children were selected because of their faith, with only six out of 33 schools employing any form of religious selection criteria.

Although two of the district’s Catholic schools were found to be in the bottom ten per cent in terms of socio-economic inclusivity, based on the number of children eligible for free school meals compared to other schools in their catchment area, Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, did not feel this reflected any form of elitism.

“We have a relatively small secondary school faith sector in Bradford, so I don’t think it’s a massive issue,” he said. “The Fair Admissions Campaign points to a bigger issue elsewhere in the country. Our Catholic community is very diverse and my impression is that being a Catholic in Bradford isn’t a proxy for being well-off.

“Any form of selection does create potential for an uneven distribution in terms of socio-economic background, but it should be a consistent, open and fair approach across the board.”

Conservative education spokesman, Councillor Roger L’Amie, agreed that the issue was not a major concern locally.

“It seems logical that their entry criteria, other than faith, should be compatible with secular schools. They have a responsibility to run a fair admissions process and any differences in socio-economic status should be indirect,” he said.

“My view is that schools that receive state funding should have an open-handed admissions policy. Any school blatantly massaging its intake should be seriously criticised.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Jeanette Sunderland said: “The links that are mentioned are indirect, but any form of segregation among children in a very diverse district such as ours can be a problem. We must be mindful that children of all backgrounds should mix together as much as possible.”

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