On 9th March 2016 Lord Watson of Invergowrie asked Her Majesty’s Government “why they are proposing to prevent some parents and organisations from objecting to violations of the School Admissions Code”. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, we know that some campaign groups are actually targeting faith-based schools as part of a broader agenda. How many of the upheld objections were unrelated to religious selection criteria, and how many were upheld on minor administrative infringements? Are the significant time and resources used to respond to such objections justified in the light of those numbers?
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: As I said in my previous answer[*], many of the faults that were found related not to faith but to other issues. Church and faith schools make a significant contribution to our education system: 87% of faith schools are good or outstanding, compared with 82% of non-faith schools. Of course schools have to abide by the correct codes, but it is important to recognise the value that these schools add to our education system.
*The Minister’s previous answer was as follows:
Baroness Meacher (CB): My Lords, we now have reliable information that virtually all religiously selective schools breach the schools admissions code, some in a very serious way. Does the Minister agree that serious breaches of the code are thoroughly unacceptable? Will Ministers agree to meet the British Humanist Association and the Fair Admissions Campaign to discuss the importance of having some informed organisation, whatever that might be, to make sure that the authorities are aware when breaches occur?
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: It is certainly true that, if any school is breaching the admissions code, that cannot be acceptable. The noble Baroness refers to faith schools in particular, but actually a lot of the issues raised in the report An Unholy Mess, which I think she is referring to, were related not to faith but to other issues such as banding, sixth-form admissions arrangements and the use of incorrect definitions. Still, schools of course have to get their admissions codes right, which is why we want to put parents’ concerns at the heart of the process and ensure that admissions codes are clear for all parents.