Hi there – here's our latest update, including some action you can take, highlighted in red .....

Making inclusive schools an issue in the Council elections:

The Council elections are in May, and you may have noticed that we're already in the pre-election season. It would be great if you could ask your local candidates whether they agree or disagree with this statement

“I think it would benefit the local community if state-funded church schools made more of their places open to all local children, regardless of their parents’ religious practice. If elected, I will do what I can to encourage them to move in that direction.”  

Please let us know their response (or failure to respond). If we get enough inputs, we'll publicise the results.   

Primary School News:
Demand for primary places is running at record levels, which makes the unfairness of faith-based discrimination particularly 
keenly felt. 
St.Mary's CofE Primary in Twickenham are currently consulting on their admissions policy. Click here for the policy and the official letter explaining how to respond. They're not proposing a change. But the policy involves 24 "Foundation" places (out of 90 places/year) where children of churchgoers have priority. It's not the worst case in the borough - see our 2013 report on primaries. But the Diocese of London wants more inclusivity, so why can't there be 0, or 10 places instead of 24? Do make your voice heard, especially if you're directly affected. The deadline for responses is 28th Feb. (If you do respond, it would be great to see a copy! And if you pick up that other consultations taking place in the borough, please let us know - thanks to TL for flagging this one.) 

The Governing Body of St.Mary’s & St. Peter’s Primary in Teddington (SMSP) has decided to retain its highly discriminatory faith-based admissions policy for 2015. In 2013, only 14 of the 90 places were offered to children who were neither siblings of existing pupils or new faith-based applicants. RISC suggested a modest change that would have had zero impact on the ethos of the school, while representing a significant step in the right direction. We know the Governing Body discussed it. But, whatever we, Vince Cable (who asked for church schools to be more "community minded" in their admissions) or even the Anglican Diocese says, it seems that they stubbornly refuse to change. Under current legislation, they have the power. What you can do

The latest list of free school approvals didn't include either of the two 60 place/year primaries proposed for the borough: GEMS Learning Trust or Richmond Bridge Primary School. But the Department for Education is now running four rounds of free school approvals each year instead of one, so things may change. Meanwhile, the Council is expanding some existing community primaries, but it remains to be seen whether this will be enough. And none of the new places will directly help parents in some of the areas of greatest competition, including most of Twickenham/north Teddington. 
Secondary School News:
The Council has published its 2014 Secondary School applications report. As expected, the numbers are up from last year, with 230 more applicants, while the number of places went down by 40. For the first time, at least in recent years, there were more applicants than places. But that excludes Turing House, the 150 place secondary free school approved to open in 2014, which has yet to announce whether it has a site and was therefore taking applications outside the Council scheme. 

St.Richard Reynolds - the Catholic secondary given the prime site that (inclusive) Turing House had originally wanted - was fully subscribed. We don't know how many of the applicants were from Catholic families. But, as it's fully subscribed, children whose parents are not Catholics will be turned away in favour of Catholic applicants, regardless of where they live. And the same applies to all the other Catholic secondaries in the area. 

The Council claim they have enough places, even if Turing House doesn't open in time. But filling every last place will mean a big increase in families getting none of their six choices. Good luck to everyone waiting for offers on March 1st ... let us know how you get on!

Looking further ahead, the new secondary proposed for the Richmond College site for 2017 was also not included in the latest batch of free schools announced by the government. But it may feature in one of the subsequent rounds. It's certainly capacity that the borough needs.

National News: Catholic Church maintains pressure to be allowed 100% exclusive faith free-schools
Mark Hoban, Conservative MP for Fareham, recently sponsored a short debate in the House of Commons in which he objected to the 50 per cent limit on religious selection imposed on faith Free Schools, which has resulted in the Catholic Church refusing to open any. You can see the details and the response from the Fair Admissions Campaign here.

RISC Core Team