Quotations index


Not superior
Social selectiveness in Wales
. . . and England
. . . becoming worse
. . . and covert
Unfair comparison
Serving the poor?
Just how religious?
Underperforming religious schools
Importance of supportive parents
Excluding the unwanted
Selection by back door
School governors


Quotations on
pupil selection and performance by faith schools

Faith Schools not superior - official

Mr David Chaytor (Bury North): . . . .Is there in the report any similar evidence on faith schools and their levels of achievement or rate of improvement? If not, has Ofsted produced any relevant information since the 2000-01 report was published?

Estelle Morris: . . . . With respect to faith schools, I am not aware of anything in the Ofsted report that particularly highlights the performance of faith schools. I have never made the argument that faith schools are by nature higher performers than schools that are not faith schools, and I will not make that argument when I speak later on the amendment to the Education Bill dealing with that subject. The argument is a different one. I have always said that I think that faith schools are confident in their value base, and there is often a natural link between school and home that stands them in good stead. Equally, I have always said that schools which do not have a faith base often have a strong value base and similar links between home and school. Later, perhaps we can explore more thoroughly than we should now some of the issues raised by my hon. Friend.

[Commons Hansard, 5/2/02, col 767]
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Social selectiveness in Wales accounts for superior performance

ANALYSIS OF LEVELS OF EXAMINATION PERFORMANCE in comparison with levels of free school meal entitlement shows that once the different levels of free school meal entitlement are taken into account, the differences in GCSE/GNVQ examination performance and absenteeism [between church and other schools] were not statistically significant.

National Assembly for Wales Statistical Directorate report "Church School Secondary Education in Wales, Examination and Attendance Data, 2000"
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More evidence of social selection

Religious schools have far fewer children from poor families than non-religious ones:

Maintained primary and secondary schools: percentage of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals, by religious character of school, January 2000
Religious character
Maintained primary schools
Maintained secondary schools
Church of England
Roman Catholic
Other religious schools*
Non-religious schools

*Includes Methodist, schools of mixed denomination or other Christian belief, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other religions.

[Hansard, column 608W, 12 July 2001]
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Socio-economic selectiveness of religious schools getting more marked

29% of secondary schools in England became more ‘privileged' in their intake between 1994/95 to 1999/00…[with] less than their local ‘fair share' of children from families in poverty… [i.e., they started with a below average intake of children entitled to free school meals and became more exclusive over the period].

This trend towards segregation is …worse among …foundation (42.6%), and voluntary-aided C of E (56.8%) specialist schools. The latter is particularly interesting showing that, however neutral the school admissions policies are except with respect to religion, religious schools are attracting or ‘selecting' an increasingly privileged intake and this has implications for the current (at time of writing) proposal to expand this sector as well.

[Specialist schools in England: track record and future prospect by Stephen Gorard and Chris Taylor, Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, June 2001]
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Rise of covert selection

Church and foundation schools are 25 times more likely to select pupils who will boost their league table ratings than council-run comprehensives. And the Government's new specialist schools are three times more likely to select pupils by stealth - "covert selection" - than ordinary comprehensives, according to a study of secondary admissions.

The study suggests interviews are used to exclude certain families. At these interviews parents might be questioned about their occupation. Church schools, which are supposed to stick to questions about religious background, ask if children will be "in harmony" with their ethos. One in six church schools interview pupils, a practice to be banned in September 2005.

And while fewer than one in 300 community schools selects any pupils for aptitude, one in 17 specialist schools and one in 11 foundation and voluntary-aided schools does. Church and foundation schools control their own admissions.

The study, looking at admissions rules at 95% of English secondaries, was carried out by Professor Anne West and Audrey Hind of the London School of Economics. They found community schools were most likely to have "fair" criteria and give priority to children with special needs.

"Exploring the extent of overt and covert selection" is available at http://www.risetrust.org.uk/admissions.html

[National Literacy Trust, February 2003]

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Unfair comparisons to suggest superior performance

A Lancashire church school outperforms the community school next-door because of its religious ethos, the Church of England's leading education officer has said. Canon John Hall, general secretary of the Anglican board of education, has plunged into the controversy over the expansion of faith schools by comparing the superior standards at St Christopher's high school in Accrington with those at neighbouring Moorhead…His comments, which ignore clear differences between the two schools' intakes, echo comments from ministers…

  St Christopher's C of E Moorhead High
On roll: 915 957
Special needs: 1.5% 69.8%
Free meals 5% 33%
5 A* - C GCSEs: 59% 25%
5 A* - G GCSEs: 97% 85%
No GCSE passes: 2% 9%
Cognitive test score for KS2 cohort:(Average = 100) 99 91
Permanent exclusions: 2 9
Fixed term exclusions: 16 95
Staff: No resignations last year. Full complement. 11 vacancies at start of term, all filled.

[Times Education Supplement, 2/11/01]

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Serving the poor?

"Apparently, Canon John Hall wants church schools to serve the poor in the community. Maybe he could explain why our local church school, which he knows well, has fewer than 5 per cent of its pupils eligible for free school meals. In an area of considerable deprivation, this is a smaller percentage than at the two local grammar schools. Indeed the popularity of the school is based almost exclusively on the correct perception among middle-class parents that their children's education will not be disturbed by the influence of the poor… "

[Letter from Burton, Carnforth, Lancashire, Times Educational Supplement, 29/6/01]
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Just how religious?

David Bowes, Headteacher of Crompton House [Oldham C of E school], is happy to admit that many ‘Church of England' parents actually attend services with the express purpose of winning a place at his school. Applicants need a reference from their vicar, and only a handful are from ethnic minorities…

"Many parents, if they were completely honest, would say that they think this is a great school, and they think going to church for five years to ensure a place is the right thing to do."

[Times Education Supplement, 29/6/01]
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Underperforming religious schools

In a study of standards in Roman Catholic and Church of England schools, John Marks, of the Civitas research institute, has found "staggeringly large" variations in average standards between the best and the worst. He warns parents that they need to check individual schools, and not assume that all have high standards.

Marks, who served on several education advisory bodies under the Conservatives and is currently an education adviser to the Church of England, warns that the problems of bad teaching, low standards and low morale are just as acute in the worst church schools as they are in the worst state comprehensives. And while performing, on average, marginally better than their secular counterparts, some church schools are still falling short of government targets.

"The churches have got plenty of underperforming schools," says Marks. "It is very disturbing that even at the age of seven, many schools of all kinds are behind the standards that they are expected to reach. By 14 there are large numbers of church as well as local education authority schools where pupils are three or more years behind in English and mathematics."

Marks examined whether pupils had reached the national standards that they were expected to have met for their age. He then worked out an average score for pupils' ability in just about every school in England. The research, to be published next month in a Civitas pamphlet called Faith in Education, shows:

1. Pupils at both Church of England and Roman Catholic schools are achieving, on average, at the age of seven, slightly better than the national targets for their age. But by the time they are 11 and 14, their results are substantially below national curriculum targets - by about six months at 11 and about 15 months at 14.

2. Rates of progress for pupils at church schools are also poor - on average, they fall well below the progression they should achieve between the ages of 7 and 11 and they make half the progress they should achieve between 11 and 14.

But it is the variations in standards between one church school and the next that concerns Marks most. He has found that in the worst church schools, 11-year-olds have fallen behind national targets by two to three years. In the best church schools, 11-year-olds are a year ahead. "The church needs to look not just at its average performance but enter into the debate as to why some schools are doing much less well than others," he says.

[Sunday Times, 30/10/01]
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Jewish school is secular failure

A private school for orthodox Jewish boys has been ordered to improve or be closed by the DfES after it received a damning inspection report. Talmud Torah Bobov in north London had been served with a Notice of Complaint after serious complaints from Ofsted. The report said that there were significant weaknesses in the secular curriculum.

[TES, 26/7/02]
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Scottish "Taliban-style" school closed after damning report

Scotland's only Muslim secondary school has been temporarily closed following a damning inspectors' report that uncovered allegations of bullying and bad teaching practice.

The boarding and secondary section of Iqra Academy in Glasgow has been shut down by the trust which now runs the school. Members of the Iqra Charitable Trust, which formerly managed the school, claim they had to step in to seize control of the institution again after deteriorating standards under the previous regime were picked up in the report.

Parents have been angered by the rapid takeover, claiming the charitable trust has used strong-arm tactics to regain control of the school. Locals claimed that under the old management regime it focused on religion to the detriment of academic subjects.

One concerned Muslim, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Herald: "The school had become too Muslim. It was like a Taliban school. Everything was to be done the Islamic way. It made things very hard, especially after September 11. There was too much focus on religion."

[The Herald, Glasgow, 15/5/03]
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Problems at Church of England Academy in London

Haringey: The Greig City Academy replaced St David and St Katharine C of E High School with a part refurbishment and part new build taking up to 1,250 pupils. It is an 11-18 Academy with a technology specialism. The sponsors Greig Trust with the Diocese of London have pledged support of £2 million. The Academy is providing a broad-based education for pupils within a framework of Christian values.

[DfES website]

Last week the first of the government's city academies - the initiative that replaced the discredited fresh start - was reported to be in crisis after just six months.

The Guardian 15/4/03

Importance of supportive parents

"The fact that we select those who are supported by parents is the key defining factor in the kind of pupils we send out into the world."

[Head of a C of E school quoted in The Independent, 15/6/01]
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Excluding the Unwanted

Comprehensive schools are operating covert selection with some using every possible device to avoid admitting the dim and the difficult, says new research from Sheffield Hallam University. ..The existence of even one selective school in an area could trigger significant responses (either aggressive or defensive) from other schools and have far-reaching effects," the study says.. It also points out that the problems are worse for parents in areas of partial selection, with specialist schools and foundation and aided schools relatively free to set their own criteria. They warn that the polarisation of intake caused by selection will get worse as the number of specialist schools increases in line with Government aims."

["Covert action to keep out the unwanted", Times Education Supplement, 26/10/01]
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Selection by back door TES, 2/11/01

Marion Parsons, headteacher and committed Christian, believes faith schools can lead to selection by the back door, writes Julie Henry. She also claimed that if Christ were alive now, he would be helping deprived children, "not setting up schools for the middle class . . . If campaigners said that they wanted a grammar school, at least that would be honest."

[Times Education Supplement, 2/11/01]
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Unsubstantiated claims
John Bangs, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The Green Paper [Schools: Building on Success, DfEE, 2001] is making completely unsubstantiated claims about church schools."

[Times Education Supplement, 16/2/01]
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False assumption

In chapter 4 there is the assumption that because the present specialist and faith schools are achieving well, an increase in their number will necessarily raise standards further. The Prime Minister has said he is interested in 'what works'. It is unfortunate that the question as to 'why it works' is not the natural sequitur. There are features of these particular schools which may not be easily replicable. The reasons for their assumed success may be related to the ability and attitudes of their pupils and parents; it may be as a result of the entrepreneurial nature of their leadership or, in the case of specialist schools, as a result of preferential funding. If the 'what works' line of reasoning were taken to its logical conclusion, all schools would be girls' schools.

[National Association of Governors and Managers (NAGM) response to the Government green paper on schools, June 2001]
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An ethos of selection or open to all?

CASE believes that much of what we were concerned about in our response to Excellence in Schools in relation to specialist schools has come about. As CASE has maintained in many previous communications we believe that distinctive ethos for a school may be for many reasons, some of it because of particular staff or history.

Paragraph 4.13 illustrates the incoherence of the policy of schools being forced to 'develop strengths'. There is a huge difference between schools which 'develop a strength' because of their being able to put together a successful bid to become a specialist school and faith schools which attract particular families; which often means they have a privileged intake…

We are concerned that faith schools can create an ethos of selection. If faith schools (4.18-4.19) are to remain then allowing more schools to open if there is genuine demand can be justified. However where these schools are the only accessible state funded school they may either directly or indirectly exclude local pupils.

We would oppose the conversion of an existing community school to a faith school if this resulted in the direct or indirect exclusion of local children. CASE believes that schools funded by general taxation should be open to all children.

Because of this CASE wants to see all faith schools required to open a significant proportion of their places to local children who are not in the faith community. If these schools have something to offer it should be offered to local children.CASE believes no schools, including faith schools, city academies and CTCs, should interview parents or pupils before admissions are decided…

This Government has been far too passive in ensuring that admission policies are fair.

[Campaign for the Advancement of State Education response to the green paper]
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Class selection by interview

According to Margaret McGowan of the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE), parents often favour a religious school because they expect their children to be safer.

"The truth is that bullying and drugs can be as much of a problem as in non-religious schools," she explains. And though educational standards are sometimes higher, it's not necessarily directly related to religious beliefs or morals.

"In selecting children for state-funded faith schools, head teachers are only supposed to ask questions about a family's commitment to religion. But some make innocent-sounding inquiries about, for example, where they go on holiday, or what type of car the parents drive," she says. "Their aim is to select middle-class parents in the belief that they'll produce better-performing pupils. That, in turn, will keep the school high in performance league tables."

[Bella, June 2000]
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Selection on any grounds excludes troublesome children

Although nearly a quarter of the most successful secondaries are church-run, they are less dominant in the primary sector, says the Office for Standards in Education. Selection, even on religious grounds, is likely to attract well-behaved children from stable backgrounds, it says.

[Spokesperson for the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), quoted in Times Educational Supplement, 16/2/01]
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The problems facing The Ridings are vast, not least of them that two grammar schools and two church schools cream off the best pupils.

[The Observer, 11/3/01]
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A cheat's guide to getting into a good school

Satirical article by Catherine Bennett  [The Guardian, 2/5/02]
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Islamia schools

…the secondaries are both selective and fee-paying… Pupils must pass a test covering maths science and Islamic studies. That helps to explain the schools' results…

[Times Education Supplement, 30/11/01]
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Letter from America

I was appalled to discover that my two nephews in London, though Jewish, are ineligible to attend the Jewish faith school close to their home. The prospectus of the state-funded establishment makes it clear that parents have to prove conformity to strict religious requirements that exclude large sections of the Jewish community.

On a recent visit to London, I raised the matter with a couple I was visiting, only to be told that their son could not be enrolled in the Church of England state school near their house since they did not meet the school's church-attendance requirements. Many local parents stepped up churchgoing for brief periods to appear to meet the requirements, but they did not wish to do this, they said, and their son was therefore unable to benefit from an institution paid for with their taxes.

Here in the US there is a constitutional-based separation of religion and state, and faith-based schools do not receive public funding. Given the risks of sectionalism and discrimination when faith schools impose narrow moralistic requirements not even endorsed by many within the faith they serve, I suggest that the American approach is right.

[Letter from Jonathane D Richmond, The Times, 4/4/02]

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Updated 23 May 2003