RISC UPDATE 6 DECEMBER 2013
- The Archbishop of Canterbury has indicated that he’s in favour of more inclusivity at CofE schools, though the church subsequently back-pedalled and he emphasised that each school makes its own decisions. A follow-up letter from RISC was printed in The Times pointing out that inclusivity at church schools increases choice. On the other hand the Catholic Church has re-emphasised its hard line.
- It is at primary level where faith-based selection has the biggest impact across the borough. So far we’ve had no responses from local church primaries to our report on faith-based discrimination and suggestions for how they could be more inclusive; but the church Dioceses have responded. One school – St.Mary’s & St.Peter’s in Teddington – ought to relax their criteria on the basis of the line taken by their Diocese. But it’s their decision. There is a big gap between the desires of the more enlightened senior clergy and what is happening in practice.
- There are now two proposals for 60 place/year primary free schools in the borough to open in 2015, one from the GEMS Learning Trust and the other from Richmond Bridge Primary School. Both are seeking parental support ahead of an application to the Department for Education. There’s no information about potential sites.
- The Council has a new Site Allocations Plan which states “The Borough aims to provide [primary school] places for children within 1.5 miles of their home address, ie within walking distance.”
- At secondary level, Turing House free school is approved to open in Sep 2014 and has announced its Head, but not yet its location. The Council is hoping that the government will back a proposal for another new secondary at the Richmond College site, but not until 2017. Across the border in Kingston, the North Kingston Secondary School will open in 2015 in an existing adult education centre - its impact on Richmond remains to be seen. Meanwhile, there are still vacancies at Richmond Park Academy and, to a lesser extent, Twickenham and Hampton Academies, while an exceptionally high proportion of borough children move out of the state sector between primary and secondary levels.
- The latest edition of “Rugby Post”, the RFU’s community newsletter, delivered to households in Twickenham, reported: “RFU Education Partnership Welcomes St Richard Reynolds Catholic College”. No problem with that, as they support most local schools. But the article underneath is pure propaganda, giving a biased justification for the school and its admissions policy, with no mention of any opposition. We have asked for a correction – no reply as yet.
- There was wide national media coverage for the Fair Admissions Campaign's launch of a new map showing every mainstream state secondary school in England with data on its religious selectivity, and socio-economic and ethnic inclusivity, including our local schools.
Front page headline The Times 14 Nov “Church in ‘moves away’ from school selection” based on an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. His officials rushed out a denial. Judge for yourself from this link to the actual transcript of his interview with Ruth Gledhill, The Times’ Religion Correspondent. This was followed by a nice piece on the Guardian site, a daft leading article in The Times arguing that faith-based selection increases choice, and a letter to The Times from Jeremy on behalf of RISC pointing out that inclusive admissions to faith schools would increase choice, not decrease it. It’s pretty clear his sympathies lie with inclusive admissions. So now the Archbishop of Canterbury plus the CofE’s head of education, the Bishop of Oxford (who made similar remarks a couple of years ago) plus the Diocese of London are saying roughly the same thing. Trouble is, most CofE Voluntary Aided schools are ignoring them.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has issued a strong statement confirming its refusal to set up new free schools because they have to stick to a 50% cap on faith-based admissions. Apparently this cap represents "a disproportionate disadvantage on the Catholic community". This is the policy which led to St.Richard Reynold’s school in Twickenham being set up as a Voluntary Aided school so that it could have an admissions policy enabling up to 100% faith based selection.
In September, we sent our report of “Faith Based Discrimination in Richmond Primary School Offers 2013” to every church primary with Reception classes, with a covering letter suggesting how they could change their admissions policies to be more inclusive, without threatening their status or ethos. We also sent it to the Anglican and Catholic Dioceses. So far, none of the schools have responded directly, though we have had some correspondence with governors at one CofE school. On the other hand, we have had responses from the CofE and Catholic Dioceses. (In both cases they split the borough along the line of the river – “Southwark” CE/RC Dioceses on the Richmond side and “London” (CE)/”Westminster” (RC) on the Twickenham side.)
Church of England
The CofE Diocese of London has said publicly that “We feel that it is really important to go back to our roots. We think we should be there to serve the community, so we’re really encouraging schools to move towards [open admissions].” As you can see from our correspondence with them we highlighted Archdeacon Cambridge’s and Bishop Perrin (Twickenham) and St.Mary’s & St.Peter’s (Teddington) all of which are highly discriminatory. Here’s the key extract from their reply:
“As you will no doubt be aware it is the Governing Bodies of Voluntary Aided Schools which make the decisions on admissions and there is very little we can do to change outcomes especially when our schools are small schools and heavily oversubscribed. Any change in admissions policy to a one form entry school such as Bishop Perrin is going to disenfranchise some families who may have been counting on getting a place for the past 3 or 4 years. We have found that the best way to bring change about is to expand schools as offering new places allows for a change in policy without the Governors losing support. Suffice it to say we would be very happy to see Archdeacon Cambridge and Bishop Perrin expand but there are site constraints.”
On this basis, even applying their own restricted criteria, there is no case for SMSP (which has been expanded) to maintain its current policy. We’ll see.
The CE Diocese of Southwark - which includes the outrageously exclusive Queen’s school in Kew - simply sent us a “received and duly noted” reply.
We received from the Diocese of Westminster a clear re-statement of the church’s position on admissions, which is essentially that state-funded Catholic schools are for children of Catholics. The Catholic Diocese of Southwark couched their reply in terms of their role within the borough’s overall provision, but the “no change” message was the same.
- It looks like there will be at least two proposals for new(inclusive) primary free schools to open in 2015: a 60 place school proposed by: The GEMS Learning Trust; and a 60 place Richmond Bridge Primary School, apparently for the St.Margaret’s/East Twickenham area, proposed by Bellevue Place Education Trust. Like all free school proposals, these will be subject to approval by the Department for Education, not the Council.
- As part of the evolution of its Local Development Framework, the Council has issued a “prepublications” of a new Site Allocations Plan. Section 2.6.11, which is about primary school provision, says “The Borough aims to provide places for children within 1.5 miles of their home address, ie within walking distance.”
- Faith based selection is increasingly impactful because of the tight supply of primary places compared to growing demand. We’re already in the run-up to the May 2014 Council elections and the Conservatives and LibDems are trading claims and counter-claims about which party has been/will be best at providing enough places.
- Turing House is the new secondary free school approved by the Department for Education to open somewhere on the Twickenham side of the borough in Sep 2014. Their first choice site was Clifden Road (which went to the Catholic school) and then part of the National Physical Laboratory site (which is not available). On the basis of their website it looks like the Education Funding Agency has identified another potential site for them, but is keeping it confidential for commercial reasons.
- The Council is making great play about the new 150 place secondary free school they are planning to support as part of the redevelopment of Richmond (Further Education) College in Twickenham into “Richmond Education & Enterprise Campus”, which will combine the FE college, the secondary and Haymarket Media’s new headquarters. Here’s the report in the Richmond & twickenham Times and their new website: the new website for the campus. The Council are being careful to promote the school as “non-faith” – they’re sensitive to the issue after forcing the Catholic school through. From our viewpoint that means it’s inclusive of local children regardless of whether their parents are religious or not. Clearly this new capacity is welcome. If the school is approved by the Department for Education, it is targeted to open in 2017.
- The new secondary free school on the North Kingston adult education centre site is (at last) going ahead with 180 places/year, opening – according to their latest timeline - in 2015. It remains to be seen whether Richmond Council’s high estimate of the number of pupils it will draw away from the (Ofsted Outstanding) Grey Court school in Ham will be borne out in practice.
- Meanwhile, the new Catholic school cannot be assumed to make any contribution to the total as it is aimed at pupils who would otherwise attend Catholic schools outside the borough’s boundaries. It will be interesting to see how many Catholic applicants they get this year. There were 25 vacancies there this year, despite offers to a number of non-Catholic applicants. But the current application round, for 2014 entry, is arguably the first “normal” year for the school.
- St.Richard Reynold’s Catholic College received some nice publicity in the latest edition of “Rugby Post” the RFU’s community newsletter. Under the headline “RFU Education Partnership Welcomes St Richard Reynolds Catholic College” you might have expected to find a piece about the work the RFU does in helping local schools, now extended to SRR as the latest example - no-one would have a problem with that. But instead the article is a pure propaganda piece written by SRR giving a very biased justification for the schools and its admissions policy, with no mention of any opposition. We have complained to the RFU, asking for a correction – no reply as yet.
- One factor that we thought might have an effect on the supply/demand balance was that ratio of borough children at state secondaries (inside and outside the borough) compared to those at state primaries is very low (under 50% in 2010), lower than any other London borough, even those which – like Richmond – are relatively prosperous. There is a huge difference between the number of applications for secondary places and the actual uptake. Parents who are happy with the state primaries are going private at secondary level – there’s significant pent-up demand (equivalent to more than a whole school) which would be released if there were sufficient places at good quality secondaries available. According to the detailed report given to the Schools Admissions Forum meeting in September, that additional demand is still not materialising. One reason appears to be that one of the three original Academies – Richmond Park – seems still to be struggling to attract pupils: at the beginning of this term it had over 50% vacancies (115 vacancies out of 220 places) and there were also some vacancies at Twickenham Academy (46) and Hampton Academy (20). The position will not be helped by Twickenham Academy’s recent “Requires Improvement” Ofted report.
Our interpretation of the situation is that the borough continues to be uniquely under-provided with what parents consider good quality secondary places, but the Council can get away with it because enough parents can afford to go private - or move out - if they can’t find a suitable place at a local state school.
Fair Admissions Campaign schools map
The Fair Admissions Campaign has just published groundbreaking research into the extent of religious selection in state schools and its effect on social and ethnic inclusiveness. Launched in map form, for the first time it scores how religiously selective, socio-economically inclusive and ethnically inclusive every mainstream state secondary school in England is. Users are able to see profiles for individual schools, compare and rank different schools in their area and nationally, and see how segregated different denominations, dioceses and local authorities are. It can be viewed at http://fairadmissions.org.uk/map.
The research combines data from five main sources and hundreds of admissions directories. The map details the proportion of pupils each school is allowed to religiously select in its oversubscription criteria; how many pupils at the school are eligible for free school meals by comparison with its local area; and how many speak English as an additional language.
Key national findings include:
- Comprehensive secondaries with no religious character admit 11% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected given their areas. Comprehensive Church of England secondaries admit 10% fewer; Roman Catholic secondaries 24% fewer; Jewish secondaries 61% fewer; and Muslim secondaries 25% fewer.
- There is a clear correlation between religious selection and socio-economic segregation: Church of England comprehensives that don’t select on faith admit 4% more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, while those whose admissions criteria allow full selection admit 31% fewer.
- 16% of schools select by religion but they are vastly overrepresented in the 100 worst offenders on free school meal eligibility and English as an additional language. They make up 46 of the worst 100 schools (and 67 out of 100 if we exclude grammar schools) on FSM eligibility and 50 of the worst 100 (55 if we exclude grammar schools) on EAL.
- The map represents the first time any data has ever been published on the degree of religious selection by faith schools. We estimate that 16% of children at state schools (or 1.2 million) are subject to religious selection criteria. Compared with 5% of secondary places in grammar schools and 7% in independent schools, this means that state-funded faith schools are the biggest source of selection in the education system.
How to look up your local area:
- On the ‘Map of school’s tab: zoom in on your area and click on the schools to see profiles
- On the ‘List of schools’ tab: use the filter to find just your local authority or search for individual school names – you can then click on the headings to sort schools by FSM, EAL or religious selection, and click on the schools to see profiles
- On the ‘Heatmap of local authorities’ tab: on each of the three sub-tabs you can click on a local authority to see how religiously selective it is and how segregated it is on FSM or EAL.
- On the ‘Overall averages’ tab: you can see how religiously selective different local authorities are and how much religiously selective schools cause segregation on free school meals. You can also see how religiously and socio-economically selective each Diocese is.