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← How to change a church school's admissions policy

How to change a church school's admissions policy - Comments

Valerie_'s Avatar Comment 1 by Valerie_

You (and the other parents) could ask them to institute a policy of accepting the siblings of children who currently attend the school. This seems reasonable. If they say it would make things too complicated in the future or set a precedent or something, suggest that they limit the policy to sibs of children who are already enrolled. This approach would only solve one of the problems you described, but it would spare you from having to move your children to a new school.

I don't know much about laws regarding this kind of thing in the UK, but if the church is free to set the policy and you don't have a majority of governors on your side, it doesn't sound like you have much recourse.

Why has the school's rating suddenly improved so much? And what does this rating mean in terms of actual education? Did the school suddenly bring in a new batch of bright and enthusiastic teachers who discuss things in depth and try to provide a meaningful education? Or did someone discover a way to succeed at test prep? Or something else?

In the US, school ratings are based on scores on "high stakes tests." The tests are in multiple choice format and measure test prep and memorization & regurgitation more than anything else. What are the metrics in the UK like? Do you agree with how they're interpreted?

You could always take turns going to church once a month (reducing attendance to six times per year per parent) and/or try to get a seat as a governor.

Hope that helps.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 18:53:04 UTC | #593105

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 2 by Bernard Hurley

Some suggestions:

Set up a campaign organisation and make sure it has a decent slogan.

Write to the press, local and national, both by email and in writing, and continue to do so until they get publish something. It's a good idea to phone every so often to "confirm" they have received what you sent, don't be content with an automatically generated email.

Lobby your local MP. If he is on your side get him to endorse your campaign. If not invite him to a debate on local radio. Personal contact is far more effective than emails or letters which may be just glanced at and binned. He/she will remember when ten angry parents came to visit and won't want it to happen again, especially if they are more angry the second time!

Start a petition to the Schools Minister.

Demonstrating outside the church is a good idea, but make sure the media know about it by issuing a press release, and sending the media a copy of the leaflet you will hand out. I'm not sure what the law is now but it used to be the case that you had to inform the police of your intentions some time before the demonstration. Arrange to have someone make a high quality video recording of it that you can send to national television. It's probably best to be there but fairly low-key at the beginning and throughout the service so that no one can accuse you trying to prevent them going to church or interrupting the service. It also gives you an opportunity to drink coffee and chat to any journalists or police who may have turned up. It's always worth getting both of those on your side. When the congregation leaves, is the time to raise your placards and hand out your leaflets. Have a copy of your petition on hand in case any passers by wish to sign it.

Yes definitely stop raising funds for the school. Hitting people in the pocket can be enormously effective.

Good luck!

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 21:17:57 UTC | #593171

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 3 by Stevehill

You can't overturn the policy: voluntary aided (as opposed to voluntary controlled) schools are entitled to take e.g. church attendance, contributions to church funding, vicar's recommendations etc into account as a matter of law.

That's why neither of my pre-school kids will ever go to one. My 4-year old is currently applying to three non-faith schools out of catchment (we only have faith schools in catchment) simply to avoid this problem.

As soon as these schools become "outstanding", as you rightly surmise, the admissions policy will need to be adjusted to ration places. Nothing stops religious observance becoming a major issue at that point. Also, as outstanding schools, they are pre-approved for conversion to academy status if they choose. They can then apparently teach creationism, fire atheist teachers and do pretty much anything they like.

Your only option is to lobby for a change in the law. And best of luck with that, given fuckwit Gove's views as expressed in a recent article:

Mr Gove's determination to further religionise schools was revealed in an alarming article he has written for the Catholic Herald. He recommended that Catholic schools should transfer to academy status to put them "out of reach of meddling secularists". He said the academy model gave Catholic schools a chance to extend "hard-won freedoms" over admissions, staff appointments, the teaching of religion and the way they are governed.

Mr Gove said: "Of course, what really makes Catholic schools stand out is their Catholicity … A key element of [Cardinal Manning's] vision was that Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life. A Catholic ethos is not something confined to RE lessons, but a pervasive set of values that find expression throughout the school day."

He said "ideological opponents" of academies in the teaching unions were also likely to be opposed to faith schools". He added: "Active in the teachers' unions and in other parts of the education establishment, they often misrepresent the Catholic school ethos as a mechanism of religious indoctrination and wrongly portray the admissions criteria used by Catholic schools as selection on the sly…

"But by becoming an academy, a Catholic school can place can itself permanently out of range of any such unsympathetic meddling and so ensure it can remain true to its Catholic traditions."

Mr Gove said that all this indoctrination and discrimination could be carried out at taxpayers' expense. All the running costs come from public funds. And even the paltry 10% contribution that Catholic schools used to make to capital costs (originally 50% in 1944) will not apply when they are academies.

(From the National Secular Society today)

If you want to hep change the law, have a look at the Accord Coalition, which includes a lot of more enlightened religionists (and is chaired by a rabbi) who firmly believe all this nonsense must stop.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 21:37:43 UTC | #593186

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 4 by Stevehill

Gove's article.

He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy.

This is what you are up against.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 23:01:17 UTC | #593233

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

If the admissions policy is not being followed or fails to meet legal requirements, take it up with the local (Council) Education Authority. Check the school, council government websites. School Governors set their own admissions policies, bit there are legal requirements, including a requirement to have a written policy. Check catchment areas, and order of preference criteria in admissions. I know of examples in the past where governing bodies did not know what they were doing and operated illegal policies.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011 23:37:05 UTC | #593250

lilalindy's Avatar Comment 6 by lilalindy

Not so seriously...

2 Go to church. ... We could even have a debate about the sermon.

That sounds fun - stand up and ask in a loud voice; 'So why didn't God's flood kill-off the plesiosaurs? ... but the bible doesn't say how He did kill them off. I think we should be told.'

3 Picket the church. A well-mannered protest outside the church might have an effect and draw unwanted publicity.

Down with that sort of thing

Seriously...

You are in a position of having the advantage of knowing what the place is like before any of this goes on. So, put a pitch to Channel 4 that they should: film it the way it is and then, in a year or so's time, film it again and see how the admissions policy (actual stats on breakdowns of religious belief, where people live and used to live and so on) and the teaching have changed in the mean time.

We're not going to be looking at vicars beating and kicking children for not reading their bible properly but you will see parents behaving in the most bizarre way to get their children in and there will be sections of the previously admitted locals that will be discriminated against as a result of any changes that they make.

Sat, 19 Feb 2011 10:18:53 UTC | #593372

biorays's Avatar Comment 7 by biorays

God is historically and essentially a placebo invisible, imaginary political dictator created by the powerful for the ultimate sakes of the powerful. As such those in power have resorted to 'God delusions' as a control to subservience, of the masses, down the generations.

It is no surprise that education will be subdued to heavily include a 'religious virus' so that religions latent 'forces for control' can always be called upon for whenever the ruling class needs employ them.

Power means religion is a de facto military tactic well proven historically and always likely to be preserved for the potential of its usefulness in this regard.

People are just pawns in its grasp.

The godless god sellers are always amongst us!

Sat, 19 Feb 2011 18:57:42 UTC | #593483

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 8 by Rich Wiltshir

Surely you're the victim f religious discrimination: church attendance a prerequisite to governorship?

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 00:12:43 UTC | #593540

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 9 by Alan4discussion

Comment 3 by Stevehill

That's why neither of my pre-school kids will ever go to one. My 4-year old is currently applying to three non-faith schools out of catchment (we only have faith schools in catchment) simply to avoid this problem.

It is possible to make things happen, but it requires a lot of time and effort, as I commented over here. We also had a pre-school, play group and out of hours club.

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 10:49:33 UTC | #593600

pgh17's Avatar Comment 10 by pgh17

Comment 1 by Valerie_ : ve

Why has the school's rating suddenly improved so much? And what does this rating mean in terms of actual education? Did the school suddenly bring in a new batch of bright and enthusiastic teachers who discuss things in depth and try to provide a meaningful education? Or did someone discover a way to succeed at test prep? Or something else?

A new head teacher has come in, and there have been a lot of staff changes. But bearing in mind that almost all of the children joining the school were coming from a school which was 'outstanding', it is not all that surprising. The ratings are based on visits by inspectors, but they do tend to match pretty closely to exam results. In this school SATs scores have increased as the school has increased the level of focus on these tests.

On the surface the school is not noticeably different from when our eldest son started their 7 years ago.

The inprovement is, I suspect, mostly down to a change in demographics as many parents have moved into the area specifcally to get their kids into the infant school.

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 21:51:37 UTC | #593738

pgh17's Avatar Comment 11 by pgh17

Comment 3 by Stevehill :

As soon as these schools become "outstanding", as you rightly surmise, the admissions policy will need to be adjusted to ration places. Nothing stops religious observance becoming a major issue at that point. Also, as outstanding schools, they are pre-approved for conversion to academy status if they choose. They can then apparently teach creationism, fire atheist teachers and do pretty much anything they like.

I'm not sure the academy thing applies at primary level. But as for admissions policies - you are right. We had a meeting with the governors this week and they are keen to avoid being swamped with people exploiting the loophole, and being faced with a mountain of admissions appeals. But they don't yet seem prepared to take the obvious step of closing the loophole!

Your only option is to lobby for a change in the law. And best of luck with that, given fuckwit Gove's views as expressed in a recent article:

This is truly insane

Mr Gove's determination to further religionise schools ... (From the National Secular Society today)

If you want to hep change the law, have a look at the Accord Coalition, which includes a lot of more enlightened religionists (and is chaired by a rabbi) who firmly believe all this nonsense must stop.

Thanks for that - looks useful

Sun, 20 Feb 2011 22:09:59 UTC | #593749

pgh17's Avatar Comment 12 by pgh17

An update. Our lobbying of the governors has proved successful. They have now changed the admissions policy, removing all criteria related to church attendance. So it is now still a church school, but with an identical admissions policy to a community school. When we asked the governors what advantage there was to being a voluntary-aided church school, they replied that they could set their own admissions policy!

Fri, 18 Mar 2011 22:47:40 UTC | #604555