Children in care excluded from 76% of Catholic schools and all Jewish schools through admissions policies – new research External inbox

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Religious public schools systematically remove the priority of children who are or were in care in their admissions policies, using their powers to select students on religious grounds. That’s the conclusion of a new report from Humanists UK.

The report – Carefree or carefree? How faith-based schools refuse children who are or were in care – notes that the problem is particularly acute in Catholic and Jewish schools. At the secondary level, 76% of the former and 100% of the latter discriminate in this way.

The School Admissions Code sets out rules about which pupils public schools in England must prioritize for admission. It obliges all schools to give priority to children who are or have been in care. These children are officially known as “cared for” and “first in care” children. This is to ensure that the most vulnerable children in society can easily access school places. But denominational schools have a unique exception to this rule. If they wish, they can prioritize all children who “share the school faith” over children who are or have been in care but do not. In other words, denominational schools are allowed to relegate children who are very vulnerable to the point that they will not be admitted.

After a careful study of the admission policies of every state-funded secondary school in England, Humanists UK found that:

  • 41% of all religious secondary schools discriminate against children who are or were in care “not of their faith”

  • But 92% of schools that discriminate in this way are Catholic. 76% of Catholic secondary schools discriminate against children who are or were taken care of “not of their faith”

  • 100% of Jewish high schools also discriminate against children who are or were in care “not of their faith”

  • 16% of Muslim secondary schools discriminate against children who are or were in care “not of their faith”

Other types of denominational schools do much better:

  • Only 1% of Church of England secondary schools discriminate against children who are or were in care “not of their faith”

  • No other Christian, Sikh or Hindu high school discriminates against children who are or were being cared for “not of their faith”.

Humanists UK don’t believe the state should fund religious schools because, among other things, evidence shows that they don’t just separate by religion, but also by ethnic group, and parental wealth, and therefore go against social cohesion. Publishing today’s research, he said the discrimination against children who are or were in care is particularly shocking.

Humanists UK Managing Director Andrew Copson commented:

“When denominational schools were exempted from the obligation to give priority to vulnerable children over those whose parents share the faith, we opposed it. Today’s research shows that we were right to do so.

‘The Catholic Church claims in particular that it has’a special mission to take care of the poorest and most vulnerable ‘. Yet Catholic schools are among the most discriminatory. Indeed, only Jewish schools are more likely to discriminate in this way.

“Public schools should not be allowed to create a religious hierarchy into which they admit, and certainly not to exclude the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. The government should amend the school admission code so that all schools give priority to these children, regardless of their parents ‘religion.’

In May, the UK government released response to public consultation on changes to the school admission code. These changes were aimed at improving access to school for disadvantaged children. It received 1,160 responses commenting on “the capacity of designated religious schools to admit children because of their religion or belief”. And “many of them raised concerns about denominational schools choosing to prioritize children of the faith over children in care and previously caring for non-faith children.” However, the government has not responded to criticism. Instead, he only said he “remains committed to supporting the church and other denominational schools.” It is up to “the admissions authority of these individual denominational schools to decide whether or not to adopt these provisions,” he concluded.


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