/ Why is this still considered acceptable?

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Coel Hellier - on 08 Mar 2019

I thought we'd all agreed that religious discrimination was wrong, hadn't we?  So why is this sort of thing not only accepted but routine?

"A mum has claimed her son has ‘been left with no education’ after being denied a place at several schools ‘because he’s not religious’."

"He was turned down for his first choice as he lives outside the catchment area and Leanne says he was turned down by three others because they were faith schools."

These are taxpayer-funded schools!  So why don't taxpaying families have equal access to them?

Don't we have an Equality Act (2010) to outlaw this sort of religious discrimination?  

Oh yeah, I forgot, schools got an exemption from that Act, didn't they? But shouldn't schools be in the very forefront of non-discrimination good practice?

https://metro.co.uk/2019/03/07/boy-11-fails-to-get-into-religious-schools-because-hes-not-religious-8846806/

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jkarran - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Oh yeah, I forgot, schools got an exemption from that Act, didn't they? But shouldn't schools be in the very forefront of non-discrimination good practice?

Yes.

I assume your grumbling on here occurs in parallel with grumbling to your MP?

jk

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Coel Hellier - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to jkarran:

> I assume your grumbling on here occurs in parallel with grumbling to your MP?

Absolutely!  People like Humanists UK and the Accord Coalition campaign on such things, and provide useful forms for contacting MPs:

http://accordcoalition.org.uk/

https://humanism.org.uk/what-you-can-do-to-help/write-to-your-mp-about-the-governments-move-to-ban-the-bha-from-objecting-to-faith-school-admission-arrangements/

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Andy Hardy on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

His mum works in a cake shop, you'd think the PTA would be keen to have the lad so his mum could run a stall at school events..

In fact, he should be a choux in. 

<taxi!>

Stuart (aka brt) - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

It's not a good situation. He, it appears, does have a place at a school six miles away (if I'm reading it right). Not ideal but it puts the headline "left without education" a bit at odds with what might be true. 

Ramblin dave - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I'm normally a "Don't Let's Be Beastly To The God Botherers" type, but faith schools are ridiculous. I genuinely don't understand how it's a defensible concept to have state-funded schools with religious instruction, let alone religious selection.

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TheDrunkenBakers - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> I'm normally a "Don't Let's Be Beastly To The God Botherers" type, but faith schools are ridiculous. I genuinely don't understand how it's a defensible concept to have state-funded schools with religious instruction, let alone religious selection.

And, given the almighty divide we have in society right now, we need more state sponsored/supported divisions like we need more holes in our heads.

stevieb - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Choice and selection has been at the heart of a lot of educational policy for the past 40 years, so why is this a surprise? I'm not sure 'still' is the best word here, isn't this more common nowadays?

We have moved heavily away from the 'everyone has a place at the closest school ' ethos to free schools, academies, religious schools and pretty much any form of selection you want as long as it's not academic ability.

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TheDrunkenBakers - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to stevieb:

> Choice and selection has been at the heart of a lot of educational policy for the past 40 years, so why is this a surprise? I'm not sure 'still' is the best word here, isn't this more common nowadays?

> We have moved heavily away from the 'everyone has a place at the closest school ' ethos to free schools, academies, religious schools and pretty much any form of selection you want as long as it's not academic ability.

True enough, choice is good and to be encouraged, but the choice should be for the child and not the school on discriminatory grounds.  

Luke90 on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> I thought we'd all agreed that religious discrimination was wrong, hadn't we?  So why is this sort of thing not only accepted but routine?

Because middle class families, who are good at influencing government policy, have discovered that faith schools are quite an effective way of getting their kids into schools that they can keep "undesirable" kids out of. I don't think it's a religious phenomenon so much as a classist thing.

When the postcode lottery isn't doing a good enough job of keeping your kids away from the working classes, you need to come up with some extra hoops to jump through. Religion turned out to be a good cover story.

To be fair, I expect most of the people who set up the schools and came up with the entry criteria were fairly sincere in their religious beliefs, but the reason they've persisted and been defended is that they tend to end up being fairly successful schools because the barriers to entry make them slightly more exclusive than your average comprehensive.

marsbar - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Luke90:

Spot on.  

marsbar - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Whilst I'm not at all keen on religious schools, I do think the mother is being a bit of a drama queen here.  She applied as first choice to a school he clearly didn't stand a chance of getting into, religious when they aren't and out of catchment as well.  

Plenty of children travel far more than 6 miles to secondary school.  Claiming he doesn't have an education and the whole "mummy I won't be able to go to University" from a 10 year old is really quite ridiculous.  

Dave the Rave on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Thing is that if the kid got in then they would probably be ostracised or brainwashed like the rest off them.

Religions can’t be banned so they should just choose another school?

Dave the Rave on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Thing is that if the kid got in then they would probably be ostracised or brainwashed like the rest off them.

Religions can’t be banned so they should just choose another school?

Coel Hellier - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

> She applied as first choice to a school he clearly didn't stand a chance of getting into, religious when they aren't and out of catchment as well.  

As I interpret the story (I may be wrong), the out-of-catchment school was not a faith school (maybe they applied for that reason?), while the nearer ones were faith schools.

> Plenty of children travel far more than 6 miles to secondary school. 

Common in rural areas, yes, but quite rare for someone living in a major city like Nottingham (and so buses won't be set up to facilitate it).

> Claiming he doesn't have an education ...

Well currently he doesn't have a school to go to ...

> and the whole "mummy I won't be able to go to University" from a 10 year old is really quite ridiculous.  

Though that's being a bit harsh on a 10-yr-old's understanding of the situation. 

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Coel Hellier - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Dave the Rave:

> Religions can’t be banned so they should just choose another school?

Religions can't be banned but we can quite easily prevent taxpayer-funded schools discriminating like this.  (All it takes is a repeal of the exemption they get from the Equality Act.)

steveriley - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to jkarran:

...who as we all know start every parliamentary session with prayers. 

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Dave the Rave on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Some of the taxpayers may support these schools though and we really don’t want a referendum. Personally, I would prefer my tax to go to a non religious school. 

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Andy Clarke - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to TheDrunkenBakers:

> True enough, choice is good and to be encouraged, but the choice should be for the child and not the school on discriminatory grounds.  

Sadly, I don't think most of the initiatives driven into education in the unquestioned name of choice have in fact been good at all. The idea that standards would somehow be driven up by enabling middle class parents to game the system and transport their kids to whatever school happened to be doing best at the time was always risible and has signally failed. Even more ridiculous has been the academisation of the system. Successive central administrations' ideological opposition to local democracy having any real power has produced an enormously expensive system, bedevilled by hordes of Chief Executives of Academy Trusts, all I would think earning more than the old-style Directors of Education of Local Education Authorities, but with responsibility for far far fewer schools. God knows how much funding this hugely wasteful duplication of management is consuming. I write as the ex-head of a large comprehensive school which placed a very high priority on being at the centre of our local community. I'm now going to cradle my head in my hands and sigh for a while.

marsbar - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The first choice was an extremely over subscribed out of area faith school.  The others were also faith schools.  

He will be given a school place somewhere. If she wanted him to have a place now she should have read the very clear instructions with the form, and attended the open evenings and the transfer evenings where this will all have been explained.   But she knew best and decided to apply for a school he wasn't eligible for.  

"Nick Lee, director of education at Nottingham City Council, said: "Ms O’Keefe applied for one school which is among the most over-subscribed in Nottingham and not local to her, and then three faith schools where it appears she did not provide sufficient evidence of her family’s religious beliefs. "While the city council administers the applications process, the academies have their own admission criteria and will make the final decision based on that. "We will now work with Ms O’Keefe over the coming weeks to find a suitable, alternative place for Kian to start in September."

This is more about the privatisation of schools than about religion. 

Post edited at 19:24
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Coel Hellier - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

> The first choice was an extremely over subscribed out of area faith school.  The others were also faith schools.  

On what are you basing that (do you know more about this than is in the newspapers)?

The local paper says:

"Kian was hoping to attend the Church of England's Bluecoat Academy, which is close to where he lives. Other options included the Trinity School, Bluecoat Wollaton Academy, and Fernwood School, which is the only non-faith school of the chosen four - but out of her catchment area."

"We wanted Bluecoat in Aspley because that is where all his friends are, but they said it is faith first, then siblings and then siblings and catchment."

https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/mum-fuming-after-son-misses-2601395

Post edited at 19:30
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Coel Hellier - on 08 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

> "Nick Lee, director of education at Nottingham City Council, said: "Ms O’Keefe applied for one school which is among the most over-subscribed in Nottingham and not local to her, and then three faith schools ...

Which implies that the out-of-catchment one is not a faith school.  The three nearer schools were faith schools, and so turned him down despite the fact that he was in their catchment area. 

So it is the indeed religion that prevented him getting into the three nearer schools, including the first-choice one were most of his primary-school friends are going. 

PeakDJ on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Since when did we actually model the character traits we say we value in the school system?  ;)

summo on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

There will be no educational reconnaissance when there are still bishops in the lords. 

toad - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Ive quite a few catholic mates in nottingham. They all seemed to have spent hours on the bus when they were kids because their parents wanted them to go to the "decent" catholic school (as opposed to the other one)

Interestingly, no one seems to believe in anything, so i dont think it was that successful in its indoctrination

Post edited at 08:45
marsbar - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Sorry missed that she had applied to 1 secular school.  Still don't understand why someone with no faith and unwilling to pretend would think it's a good idea to apply to 3 faith schools with faith based entry criteria.   

There are several secular schools in Nottingham so if she wanted him to go to school nearby she should have applied for those surely?  

I don't disagree with you generally that if I had my way there would be no religious schools.  But the history of education in this country is such that we do.  

As for the taxpayers, the church pays money to some schools and owns land and buildings of some.  

I don't think it's the religious thing that is the issue here, it's the academies being allowed to set whatever entry criteria they want.  

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marsbar - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

He wasn't in catchment for the first school because with the choice based system and the academy criteria there isn't a catchment in the same way.  Politicans have abolished catchment areas by allowing academy schools to do what they want.  

Coel Hellier - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

> As for the taxpayers, the church pays money to some schools and owns land and buildings of some.  

The church ends up paying tiny amounts. They are asked to pay a small fraction of capital costs and none of the ongoing running costs.   So they end up being >99% taxpayer funded with the church paying <1%.     Further, most of the CofE land that they own dates from prior to 1908 when the CofE was funded by compulsory tithes. So again, nearly all the money derives from  taxpayers.

marsbar - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Interesting.  I was led to believe it was more than that.  

Irk the Purist - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

> Sorry missed that she had applied to 1 secular school.  Still don't understand why someone with no faith and unwilling to pretend would think it's a good idea to apply to 3 faith schools with faith based entry criteria.   

No child of 11 has a faith, unless they are infeasibley spiritual and well read, or their parents have told them what faith they are. So we are discriminating against children on the basis of how spiritual their parents are. And let's be honest, this is blatant discrimination.

In many parts of the country, particularly rural areas, there is a choice between your local school and out of catchment schools many miles away. You are unlikely to get the out of catchment because it's not your local school and you're unlikely to get your local school because you aren't religious. It's a rock and a hard place.

jkarran - on 09 Mar 2019
In reply to steveriley:

> ...who as we all know start every parliamentary session with prayers. 

So what?

Jk

fifthsunset - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to jkarran:

> So what?

> Jk

We have a state religion. The queen is the queen because she was appointed by god, and it's her parliament, so they say prayers. It's absurd.

Some people claim that it's harmless tradition. This from a Pew Research Center study from 2017:

“In some cases, state religions have roles that are largely ceremonial. But often the distinction comes with tangible advantages in terms of legal or tax status, ownership of real estate or other property, and access to financial support from the state. In addition, countries with state-endorsed (or ‘established’) faiths tend to more severely regulate religious practice, including placing restrictions or bans on minority religious groups.”

girlymonkey - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Dave the Rave:

I don't think faith schools do brainwash kids. As far as I can tell, they seem to do a very successful job of puting kids off religion entirely! Some of the most ardent atheists I know when to faith schools (mostly Catholic).

nastyned - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to girlymonkey:

Yes, a Catholic education made me a militant atheist! I thought faith schools were meant to take a certain number of non-faith people nowadays. We certainly had a couple of Muslims in my year at my last school  

jkarran - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to fifthsunset:

Thanks. I do understand that. My views on hereditary monarchy bound up with the religion of the state and the residual perks that affords are quite clear, I agree with absurd.

My question though was just about the prayers, do you see them as an actual barrier to reform or are we the electorate with our instinctive small c conservatism and deference the real problem?

I think you've answered, they're just symbolic of a much greater malignancy.

jk

Post edited at 11:27
Offwidth - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I probably share many of your concerns with faith schools but this particular case is little to do with religion. Nottingham has had major issues with underperformance in the city which date back to a certain power crazed Labour head of education who was in charge when I first moved to the city. Middle class families always knew you need to move to the suburbs to get in good school catchments; where the local school you wanted was not so oversubscribed (such that if you were not religious you were trying to do the equivalwnt of trying to shake a double 6 to get in). Hence West Bridgeford house prices are some of the most over-inflated in the UK compared to equivalents in the city next door. The faith schools like Bluecoats are some of the few that do have good reports and grades (mainly as they have a large proportion of middle class kids ... not because of religion) . The irony is that bits of this case that are to do with religion include middle class agnostic families who lie about it to get their kids in. 

Things are improving in Nottingham but it is slow; the Universities try to help in the schools struggling the most by mentoring arrangements.

marsbar - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to nastyned:

The school that the report is about would take children of any other religion over children of no religion.  

Dax H - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

If mummy dearest is that bothered maybe she should have done what my sister in law did and attend the church. When our niece was at school the best rated school in the area was a church school so her mum and her attended church once a month for a year before applying. The kid got a fantastic education. 

Unfortunately when she was 13/14 they moved house and left Leeds to live in some ex mining town in Barnsley and moved her to a comprehensive school. She was head and shoulders above the rest of the kids her age and her continued education effectively stopped because even the top set stuff was a long way behind what she had already learned. 

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Coel Hellier - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Dax H:

> If mummy dearest is that bothered maybe she should have done what my sister in law did and attend the church.

Do you think that's a reasonable thing to expect of parents? 

marsbar - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

I don't know that it's reasonable but it does show commitment.  The system is there for the playing.  People who care about their children play it. 

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steveriley - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to jkarran:

What Mr Sunset said. I was making a sideways point about the church having far more leverage in establishment matters - schools, state, law, parliament, etc - beyond what a fairly minority following should warrant. Nobody GOES to parliamentary prayers, it just fosters an underlying culture of lip service. A sizeable number of our MPs/Lords are in the same boat as those people turning up to church so they can get married in a nice looking building. 

Post edited at 16:48
Dax H - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

Some parents go the extra mile for their kids, some don't. Maybe if the mum had been as quick to talk with the school as she has been to get on to the media things might have been different. 

I know from my time volunteering at a canoe club that some parents actively engage with what their kids are doing and others drop them off and scarper. Most of the time it's the kids with parents who take an interest that get the most out of the lessons and when you speak to them have much more rounded lives. 

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Coel Hellier - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Dax H:

> Some parents go the extra mile for their kids, some don't.

Perhaps, but it's a corrupt system that requires parents to kiss the arse of a deity in order to access a taxpayer-funded school.

If white people got preferential access to schools and black people had to pretend to be white, how would that go down?

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Luke90 on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

> I don't know that it's reasonable but it does show commitment.  The system is there for the playing.  People who care about their children play it. 

The point you're making isn't entirely incorrect but I think the extent to which you've simplified it does a massive disservice to a lot of parents. Whether parents successfully play the system isn't just about whether they care, it's also about:

  • Are they even aware of the option to play the system? If so, do they know how to do it, or how to find out or know someone who does? Does their life experience lead them to expect the system to work for them?
  • Do they have the free time to devote to researching and jumping through hoops? Do they have a job that would give them Sunday off to attend a church? Is the weekend the only time they get to see their kids or catch up on chores because they're working three jobs the rest of the week?
  • Would they feel welcome if they did turn up to church? Or would they have reason to fear not fitting in or making a fool of themselves?

All of those factors and probably many others are going to favour more privileged families, regardless of how much they care about their kids. In my job, I encounter a lot of parents who aren't doing a great job for a wide variety of reasons but I hardly ever encounter parents who actually don't care.

Even when parents don't care, I think we should have a system that strives to do its best for their kids anyway because kids don't get to choose their parents.

marsbar - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Luke90:

In an ideal world I’d totally agree with you.  But we don’t live in an ideal world.  The privileged have moulded the system to suit themselves.  

I have spent my entire working life striving for kids whose parents either don’t care, or are so hopeless that their idea of caring is to abuse the people who try to help their kids.  Maybe I’m getting old and cynical.  

Post edited at 20:35
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Luke90 on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to marsbar:

That doesn't really sound like disagreement.

marsbar - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Dax H:

Exactly.  

marsbar - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

> Perhaps, but it's a corrupt system that requires parents to kiss the arse of a deity in order to access a taxpayer-funded school.

yes.  

> If white people got preferential access to schools and black people had to pretend to be white, how would that go down?

Nice whataboutery 

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blackmountainbiker - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Ramblin dave:

I taught in a C of E school for 7 years and there was no religious instruction and no requirement for religious adherence. The same went for the 2 other C of E schools in the city. The Catholic school nearby did push Catholicism a bit and they had regular services and you needed to be Catholic to attend I think. I suspect this article is not telling the whole story. 

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blackmountainbiker - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to Coel Hellier:

The duties set out in Chapter 1 of Part 6 of the Equality Act apply to all schools.  These provisions protect pupils at the school and in the case of admissions, those applying or wishing to apply for admission.  Former pupils are also protected from discrimination or harassment.

‘Protected characteristics’

The Equality Act lists a number of characteristics which must not be used as a reason to treat some people worse than others.  These are:

age;

disability;

race;

sex;

pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding;

gender reassignment;

religion or belief;

sexual orientation.

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Coel Hellier - on 10 Mar 2019
In reply to blackmountainbiker:

> The duties set out in Chapter 1 of Part 6 of the Equality Act apply to all schools.  These provisions protect pupils at the school and in the case of admissions, those applying or wishing to apply for admission.

"[The Equality Act 2010] contains limited exceptions to the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion or belief and sex. Schools designated by the Secretary of State as having a religious character (faith schools) are exempt from some aspects of the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief and this means they can make a decision about whether or not to admit a child as a pupil on the basis of religion or belief."

researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06972/SN06972.pdf

They also have other exemptions, for example they can discriminate over religion in employing teachers.

Offwidth - on 17 Mar 2019
Luke90 on 17 Mar 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Interesting article, though I think it overstates its case a bit. The kinds of subtle but powerful advantages our system offers to more privileged students are definitely a problem if you believe in meritocracy (as most people would at least claim to) but I don't think it's fair to say that parents who play the system by the rules are just as morally bankrupt as those who actually bribe, lie or cheat. We have a systemic problem which needs systemic solutions, not laying the blame at the door of individual parents.


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