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Another Hammersmith and Fulham free school that seems not to understand the Admissions Code of Practice.

Interesting to see the article in the Telegraph (21 September 2013) highlighting the “top 50 most socially exclusive state schools” and no surprise to see that Hammersmith and Fulham Schools feature several times in the list. The article refers to “schools selecting wealthy parents through the back door” and highlights the issue of certain schools finding ways to get around the School Admissions Code to select the ‘type’ of students that they wish to attract.

Further to previous posts on LSN, this local authority is currently ‘consulting’ on plans to close a successful, community primary, Sulivan School, to make way for a Church of England secondary free school for boys despite Sulivan being over subscribed in the lower years, the predicted primary place shortage and the fact that local community secondary schools rated good or outstanding have a surplus of places. One look at the advertising leaflet for the Fulham Boys School shows yet another of this type of school going against the Code of Practice by stating that parents should make sure they put FBS as their first choice school to have the best chance of getting a place.

This ‘First Choice First’ practice is no longer allowed under the code* and I have yet to receive a response from the founders as to why they have included this in their documentation. Why do we have to go through the same old charade with free schools such as this claiming to want to be “truly inclusive” when it is quite clear that the opposite is true? Hammersmith and Fulham council are hell bent on pushing the FBS opening through by closing a primary school that happens to be in the way on a prime site in leafy Fulham – I wonder if anyone from the council will challenge them on their failure to abide by the Code? Somehow I doubt it.

*The Schools Admission Code says that admission authorities MUST NOT “give extra priority to children whose parents rank preferred schools in a particular order, including ‘first preference first’ arrangements;”

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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Also to note that another free school gets to opt out of the School Admissions Code.

    “The Founders of Fulham Boys School have received permission from the Secretary of State for derogation from the school admissions code giving priority in the oversubscription criteria to their children. This is limited to the individuals who played a major role in establishing the school, during the application and pre-opening stages, and who have continued to play a significant role in the running of the school, but are not required to do so. A list of relevant founders is available from the school on request.”

    Everything else about their admissions is mind-bogglingly complicated, as with all these churchy schools that use own school banding tests.

    If it ever opens – and hopefully the Sulivan parents will win the fight to keep their school and site, I hope someone challenges the complexity of its admissions with the Office of the Schools Adjudicator. The Code states that parents should have a reasonable idea of their chances of success before they apply for any school. Impossible to see how that could be the case here.

    But no doubt it will weed out the children they don’t really want. That is usually the case according to the research undertaken by the Fair Admissions Campaign and quoted by Rabbi Romain in today’s Telegraph to which the post’s author refers.

    • Roy Grainger says:

      The admission criteria for Fulham Boys School are very simple, they are based on distance from the school. Their comment that you should put them first to have a better chance of getting in is wrong though – and in fact they don’t see the rankings they get from applicants at all. As you are complaining about the children of founding parents getting priority places are you also complaining about them giving the children of teaching staff priority ?

      Incidentally, it is 100% sure to open as they have a temporary location to be used for the next 2-3 years.

      To see complex admissions criteria check out the Oratory – you even have to apply individually in person to them for their multi-page application form – they do not make it available on the internet. The LBHF schools admission officers admitted to me they “don’t know” exactly how places are allocated, and the Westminster diocese are in perpetual conflict with them over the criteria. However, I expect that as the likes of Clegg and Blair and assorted other Labour part luminaries send their children there then nothing will change.

      Incidentally, I rejected both schools as options for my children for different reasons so I have no particular axe to grind.

      • The FBS’s admission criteria is not as straightforward as just distance. The school allocates 50% on grounds of Christian faith and 50% for “open faith or none”. It also operates a banding system (as many London schools do). In addition, the 50% faith/50% “open faith or none” is divided into two zones.

        The sentence about putting FBS first seems to have been removed. The website says:

        “To apply to FBS, simply list it as one of your six choices on the form.”

        You’re right about the complicated entry requirements at the Oratory. The Schools Adjudicator, who’s censured the school for a second time in as many years, had to ask for an explanation of the points system because it was so complicated.

        • Roy Grainger says:

          By far the simplest admissions criteria in LBHF is West London Free – 45% by closest to the school and 45% in a ballot based on a catchment area. 10% music aptitude (plus some founders places). No banding.

          The musical “aptitude” test favoured by several schools (the Oratory) strikes me as just being selection by ability – I guess musical aptitude is a proxy for aptitude in maths, English and so on. It would be interesting to see the deomographics (number on free school meals etc) of the music intake at these schools.

  2. Rosie Fergusson says:

    This post reminds me of an essay question I was composing in my head a few weeks ago which went something like this :
    ” You wake up one morning and find Mr Gove has accidentally ceded all policy development and implementation. As a welcome handshake you are allowed to abolish either admission on grounds of faith , the Free Schools or convertor academies. Which do you choose and why?”

  3. Rosie Fergusson says:

    PS my priority would be faith admissions.

    • Roger Titcombe says:

      Rosie – I agree with you entirely. It would be far healthier if our state education system was entirely secular like those of most countries in Europe. Even in America proselytising in schools is forbidden by law. Janet’s post about the Derby Free School adds a new layer of alarming evidence of the dangers of allowing priests to control schools.

      What people of faith usually fail so spectacularly to understand is that it is only secular states that can guarantee freedom of religion. The Derby Free School strongly suggests that such freedoms may be rather hard to find in Islamic schools. As the number of ‘faiths’ given state funding to open their own schools proliferate, we can expect more and more increasingly extreme examples. I would not expect too much from regulation. Ofsted already allows faith schools to be exempt from the normal standards of inspection applied to LA comprehensives. If this is denied, then will someone please explain why faith schools are not only inspected exclusively by special ‘faith sensitive’ teams, but there appear to be special teams for each faith. Surely the criteria for judging quality of teaching and learning are the same for all schools, or at least they should be. The same applies to legal regulations. Surely then, all HMI and registered Ofsted inspectors should be allocated to schools on a random basis. Either the inspectors are suitably qualified and independent or they are not. If not, they shouldn’t be allowed to inspect any schools.

      However, we are where we are with regard to the historical role of Christianity in our education system. Janet is probably right that some sort of fuzzy compromise is the best we are likely to get. It is worth remembering that the Church of England has a generally honourable record with regard to its contribution to the education system, as it has with campaigning for important social causes such as the abolition of slavery. There are many C of E schools with open admission rules and many where there is no more proselytising than in LA schools (even accepting that this is too much). However, there are also many examples where this is not the case.

      With regard to RC schools, overt proselytising and discriminatory admissions are much more common.

      Islamic schools appear to commonly practise a more extreme level of religiously inspired discrimination. It is surely not ‘Islamophobic’ to expect uniform standards in all state funded schools.

      My suggestion is to require all faith schools to reserve places for children whose parents are not of the faith and for the educational practices of the school to be non-discriminatory in terms of dress codes and the curriculum. The Chief Rabbi appears to have no problem with this.

      My latest post is about Richard Dawes, a 19th century C of E Vicar and the author of ‘Suggestive Hints for Improved Secular Instruction’.

      It would be really nice to see an updated version written by an RC Bishop or an Imam.

  4. Well over 30 of the schools on the “top 50 most-socially exclusive” state schools are designated Christian schools but are showing a very un-Christian attitude towards children by discriminating against those who aren’t of the faith.

    Some of the admissions criteria are so complex that it’s difficult for parents to wade through them. The Schools Adjudicator had to ask the London Oratory to explain their grid-and-points system.

    Not only do these complex admission criteria seem to weed out disadvantaged children but they also seem to put off previously-low attainers. Take the Archbishop Blanch CofE VA girls’ schools (5/50). It’s supposed to be comprehensive, but it only had 7% previously low-attaining pupils in the 2012 GCSE cohort. There were 50% previously high-attaining pupils, however.

  5. One school on the list, John Loughborough, a Seventh-Day Adventist church in Haringey, closed at the end of August 2013 following concerns about the level of education being offered. The Schools Adjudicator rejected a plea from the school that it remain open:

  6. Rosie Fergusson says:

    Hi Janet…so is your answer a) Faith schools go first?

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