How come my kids cannot go to the local school because they are the wong religion, even though my taxes fund them?

Anita Malhotra's picture
I find it infuriating that faith schools discriminate against children on the basis of religion. Religious discrimination would never be tolerated in the work place so I am not sure why it still exists in the school system.

Lets be clear - i am not talking about closing faith schools, I have no problem with my non christian children having a christian schooling, what I think is unfair is that my kids cannot get into their local school (200m or so away) because I don't attend church. They do not want to except my children, and if they do it is only as a last resort to fill numbers. Effectively my kids are second class citizens because of my religious beliefs. This becomes an even bigger problem when you consider some kids in haringey (my borough) dont even get school spots. so my kids could well lose out on a school spot, just because we do not go to church!

However, the complete hypocrisy of faith schools is that they have no problem taking my taxes to fund the school. They are not so picky when it comes to funding eh?!

So what happens to all the other kids who cant get in to local schools on distance because of the faith preferences? Well the lucky ones may go private, but that is a second choice in most cases. We are talking about £12-£15000 a year after all. Which when you pay your taxes is a little gutting. And lets not forget how national papers treat such people, for they will forever be judged for "being privately educated since the age of 5".

The unlucky ones may get shipped across the borough to the least popular schools, and if you believe stats and stories about success in early years having life long implications, they are hindered from the word go - because their parents were the wrong religion.

So, should I go to church to get my kids a good free education, even though I am hindu? Is that not a milder version of the crusades? Or a religious apartheid for education? I could of course set up a hindu school but a) that is not so easy, (b) I do not want my kids going to such a school and c) I work for a living. And lets be realistic - is that what this country needs - a bunch of brown kids hanging out with only other brown kids?

I would like to encourage the debate on whether such admissions policies are really fair so i have set up an epetition. We need a 100,000 signatures to get the government to consider opening this debate. While i think only the recent riots and Hillsborough has gained such interest, 100,000 is actually is not that much. So if you agree with me please sign the e-petition (below) and pass it on!

"Amend Faith schools admissions policy so that faith schools cannot discriminate against children of different faiths" has now been published. You can view your e-petition here
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Fiona Millar's picture
Thu, 06/10/2011 - 09:45

The problem here is that faith schools were exempt from the Equalities legislation under the last Labour government. No one would dream of overtly barring minority ethnic groups from applying to state schools ( although there are numerous 'back door' routes to ensuring this happens in practice). Yet it is perfectly legal to discriminate against someone because of their faith, or lack of it.
The European Convention on Human Rights has been interpreted in some contexts to allow discrimination on the grounds of faith if is ‘justified’ and the effect ‘proportionate’.
However there are some lawyers who believe that faith school admissions could be challenged in the courts in an area where the number of faith schools outweighs the number of non denominational schools to such an extent that some children are forced to travel miles out of their local neighbourhoods to go to schools that they don't want to attend. The effect in these cases might be described as disproportionate and unjustifiable.
Given the shortage of local school places in some parts of the country, especially London, maybe it is time a parent group sought to challenge these practices.

Ben Taylor's picture
Thu, 06/10/2011 - 16:46

I think the government is discriminating against you. They should be letting your taxes pay for your child to attend a faith school if that is what you want. It's their problem not the school's.

Geoffrey's picture
Thu, 06/10/2011 - 22:24

"Well the lucky ones may go private" Indeed. and the rest might not as well give up, though. Faith schools are not stupid - they know most applicants fake their religion, but, in compensation:

1) A very small number may convert;

2) A few more will benefit from a structured ethical framework;

3) Anyone who's prepared to fake religion will have done so because they value the education of their children above that of their own convictions.

In contrast, Fiona and company hope to convince us that we want to send our children to schools in which education is regarded as uncool and stupid; where opening a book or answering a question in class is regarded by kids and (intimidated) teachers as legitimate grounds for bullying and in which educational expectations are more or less zero. Places in which honesty is regarded as as some kind of psychiatric disease. I seriously doubt the motives of such people. They are trying to say something about themselves, and/or probably boost their careers.

Try to find the best possible school! Move somewhere! Away from people like Fiona and her beloved chav-land! Take no notice of her, her schools are rubbish. I challenge her to an anonymous , unscheduled visit under the guise of trainees if she genuinely believes this not to be the case.

Don't listen to what they say, see what they do. Just take a look where they send their children, once they have learned to stand on their hind legs... And wonder why those people spend so much time trying to give the impression they care a damn about you.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 08:47

Parents who fake a religious belief should ask themselves what message they are sending to their children. What they are saying is that it's OK to lie to get what you want and that dishonesty can pay. They should also consider the effect on their children of having to live a lie, of having to pretend a religious allegiance, of having to back up their parents in their dishonesty, of having to be careful not to say something that could expose the fraud. Ultimately, it could lead to children losing all respect for their parents.

Education is more than what happens in school - the greatest influence on a child is what happens in the home, and parents who lie in this way are letting their children down.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 09:10

I agree Janet.

And may I add that "morals" or "ethics" are handed down first from parents, not schools. My children attend a non-selective, non-faith secondary school whose ethos is to promote equality and respect for everyone, regardless of creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation so faith schools do not have the monopoly on ethical frameworks. If it is true that faith schools are not stupid and that they know applicants fake a religious belief, then it really begs the question why they exist at all. If they are complicit in such hypocrisy (is hypocrisy a sin?) then there is every justification to call for legislation to abolish faith schools and give the local community fair access to their local (ex-faith) school. The truly devout should have no problem with this and can ensure their children get proper religious instruction by attending services and arranging for the children to go religious classes with their places of worship.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 09:31

Unfortunately it IS a problem for Anita because she can't get her child into a local school because she is the wrong faith. What she has pointed out is that, as far as schools admissions go, one faith will discriminate against another faith as well as those who don't believe in any religion.

I think governments can, and ought to, end this inequality by abolishing selection by faith. This way, everyone's taxes goes into the education pot and religion is moved out of the financial or choice equation. I have no problem with religious conviction and respect everyone's right to practice a religion if they wish to do so but religious instruction ought to be given in the church, mosque, temple, synagogue etc.I cannot imagine that the truly devout would have any problem with this. The situation as it stands is nonsensical because faith schools have very little to do with faith per se and an awful lot to do with excluding local people from getting their children into a local school.

Ben Taylor's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 10:10

Allan the problem with your view is that faith is not something people compartmentalise - they want to try and live it, so it becomes part of a whole of nurturing development of a child. The easy way to abolish any selection by faith is to increase provision when it is oversubscribed rather than proscribing expression of faith.

Nigel Ford's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 11:36

I've never voted Labour, not even in 1997 when the right wing press were won over by the image of New Labour and seemed impressed by Blair and his wife sending their eldest son to a high flying, grant maintained, faith school miles away from their Islington home, following in the footsteps of Harriet Harman/Jack Dromey who didn't seem to possess any religious faith yet secured a place for their child at the London Oratory, before grammar school beckoned for another child. Whatever happened to community values Labour were banging on about at the time when it came to supporting local schools? What became of the status of grant maintained schools when Labour secured power?

"In contrast" Fiona Millar decided not to cream off an elite school in the state sector outside her LA or even inside it, but to support her local schools by sending her children there (where by all accounts they maximised their potential) and taking a hands-on approach as a school governor to support the staff and help the schools boost its performances and achievements. If there were more professionals and people in public life like her (as well as Francis Gilbert and Melissa Benn) who helped to turn their schools around by helping to give them balanced intakes therby raising standards and getting personally involved rather than buying into the latest success story, then there would be less disparity and polarisation between schools and the overall attainment of pupil outcomes would be higher.

Allan Beavis's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 12:55

You assume, incorrectly, that every parent who has a child in a faith school genuinely believes in, and practices, a faith. If all faith schools were abolished, it immediately frees up provision for local people and admissions would be fairer. This is a much faster and cost effective way of dealing with oversubscription made worse by faith selection. Anita's post poses serious questions of faith discrimination within faith schools. - this tension would be removed if no faith school of any denomination existed.

I appreciate that genuinely devout people wish to live their faith in all aspects of their daily life but prayer and religious instruction can, and ought to, be provided by their church outside of schools hours. As I have said, faith schools have little to do with faith per se but are popular because the general perception, espcecially at primary school age, of being superior to other schools. This is why so many especially middle class and affluent parents fake or exaggerate religious beliefs to benefit from free state education until Year 7, when they go private.

There is an interesting comment from Andrew Edmondson here’-dream-and-most-parents’-nightmare”/ explaining that in his rural community, the only local school is a CofE school so the only option means that children who are not religious or Anglican have no choice but to have CofE doctrine imposed on them. What about those children and families' right to live their life as atheists or, say, hindus?

Ben Taylor's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 16:44


Go to your MP and tell them you want funding to expand places at the C of E school. I would back you in that.

Geoffrey's picture
Fri, 07/10/2011 - 20:01

Fiona's message is simple. Have an enormous amount of clout (and the sort of social network that accompanies this priviledge) and you can send your kids anywhere, Alastair's spat with Tony Blair over the Oratory (which has regular sports fixtures with Eton and is therefore recognised as a seat of power) was almost certainly argued along those lines, even if his memoirs were somewhat economical with this, somewhat pivotal, aspect, preferring to frame the whole issue in the context of socialist values.

I don't believe Fiona's denial that her daughter received private tuition, although I conceed that it may not have been so in the strictest sense: that of paying an instructor. The family's social connections and knowhow would have been more than sufficient in their own right.

I believe her posture that ordinary people could follow in her footsteps to be a trite, pretentious, camouflage, cynically intended to understate her priviledge, of her overwhelming advantage over the uneducated throng, an advantage her family has sought with the kind of ruthless ambition which would be the envy of Wall Street. She must play this down; she has, after all, to preserve her socialist credentials.

I remember once a BBC drama set in the Victorian era in which a northern entrepreneur was portrayed as rather unprepossessing because he was "in meat". Fiona and Alastair are "in as common as muck". It's a mess, the question is: how can we make money out of this mess?

Guest's picture
Sat, 08/10/2011 - 00:10

I do not have enormous clout. I am an ordinary person but like a lot of people I know we chose to send our children to our local secondary school which did not have on paper fantastic results. ( Even now, although now judged outstanding, its A* -C inc E&M is around 50% - a figure that I think, erroneously, a lot of parents would deem too low to send their children to school there) We supported the school by getting involved and our children thrived there. Our children were academic but were not bullied for being like that. The teachers were supportive, enthusiatic and committed. Success was celebrated. Did some children not want to learn, were some disruptive yes. Did the teachers encourage that. Of course not . My children have progressed to higher education at top universities. Their friends have gone to university, including many whose parents have no family history of university. All were encouraged to aim high. I suspect my experience is similar to many other parents. In the city where I live we have no grammar schools,no single sex schools, only 2 or 3 private schools and only 2 out of about 25 secondaries are catholic schools. Over 90% of children get their first choice of secondary school. Most children go to their local catchment school. I know very few people who have had private tutors. I think Fiona is to be commended for contining to support local schools, where every child is considered. Many children that my offspring were at school with did not have easy lives. The school was rightly committed to every child from the most academically able to those who achieving F's and G's was an achievement and everyone in between. I do not believe I or other parents who have chosen to send our children to local schools are posturing. Some friends we had decided to send their children to other schools out of catchment. Nobody got very stressed over it but looking back now none of their children were any happier or achieved better results. Some people who thought their children may be bullied at my children's school and secured places out of catchment ended up moving them back to the school because they were being bullied! My children knew people who were moved out of private schools because they were bullied. I know why my children were happy where they were - because I was positive about their education and supportive of the school and teachers.
A final point - one daughter on a very academic course has been surrounded at uni by friends from private/ public schools. She has been struck that compared to her and her comprehensively educated friends from school how few of them have read many books. She has been taken aback about how little they know about current affairs and politics and their lack of awareness of the lives and incomes of others.
She has outperformed them academically and after her first set of exams was asked by others how to revise and organise themselves since it was not something they were used to sorting out themselves. Many of them had barely scraped passes.

Guest's picture
Sat, 08/10/2011 - 02:05

Just to clarify - over 90% of parents get a place at one of their three preferred choices of school in our areas. There is one application form( where you can specify upto three schools) which covers all schools including the faith schools.and academy schools. The majority of children go to their catchment/local school.
Compared to what I read about London the process is less stressful for everyone.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 08/10/2011 - 10:49

Your daughter's experience at university where she outperformed her peers from private schools is upheld by recent research which found that students from comprehensive schools gained higher degrees than students from independent or grammar schools with the same A level results. One report did contradict this but came to the conclusion that comprehensive school pupils achieved the same degrees. Further details about the research is here:

JimC's picture
Sun, 09/10/2011 - 07:29

"Your daughter’s experience at university where she outperformed her peers from private schools is upheld by recent research which found that students from comprehensive schools gained higher degrees than students from independent or grammar schools with the same A level results. One report did contradict this but came to the conclusion that comprehensive school pupils achieved the same degrees."

So lower ability children do better at private school then?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 13:47

My son is at a C of E school and it IS the community school. There are no entry criteria related to faith. It's lovely. I have no religious preference but am very happy for him to be there as its a lovely, tolerant school.

Your situation sounds very unfair Anita. I just wanted to give you a little insight into why it's not like that in some other areas.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 15:39

This is an important point. Many faith schools are very inclusive, The problem is that the way the Admissions Code and Equalities legislation is framed, those that want to can select. Many of the senior leaders in the C of E would like to change this but in the end it is a matter for individual governing bodies and they have great autonomy ( in spite of what you read in the papers about maintained schools!)

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 19:54

Ooops, must back down. Although the school has a catchment area kids of parents who are regular church goers do get priority over others. But not if they are from outside the catchment area.

In practice it works really well but I think that might because virtually no-one goes to church here (heathen bunch us lot) and the school is in the poorest part of town so the sharp-elbowed dont like it which means there is enough space for everyone in the catchment and that issue doesn't come up which is why I didn't know about it.

But I think the school having a catchment still provides much more protection for parents who live very close to the school than if it didn't.

Christine Phillips's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 19:57

I live in the same borough as Anita and I know plenty of parents converting to catholicism and christianity right now to get their children into the schools of their choice. It has been suggested to me that this kind of lie is not discouraged by churches and faith leaders; quite the reverse. Larger congregations, the possibility of converting a few and more more money in the collection bowl on a Sunday. I wonder what kind of protest there would be if the current arrangements were to be changed?

geoffrey's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 20:31

Ok, I'll cut the crap. I do not want to send my child to a school where people who don't believe in the concept of education have a controlling influence. I do not want to send my child to a school where it's ok to call a teacher a fag, a c**t, a skank or whatever. I do not want to send my child to a school in which attending after-school computer club results in my being stabbed to death. Fiona wants me to send my child to such a school, and I want to know why. And although you all seem to agree with everything she says, none of you will tell me why I should send my child to a school like that.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 20:55

Hello Geoffrey.

I went to a school a bit like the one you described. I didn't get any normal education while I was there (for nearly a year). It was in the middle of a horrific estate in 1982 where everything was shut down. There was no employment, no hope and prolific vandalism and crime. I remember being beaten up and spat on and that I spent most of my time trying to find a loo to hide in which wasn't being used by people sniffing glue bags and aerosols.

Now I could tell you about how much that experience taught me which has stood me in good stead in life (which is profoundly true) but I wouldn't expect you to listen because like you I would do anything to avoid sending my kids into a situation like that.

But I do expect you to listen to me when I say that I have spent nearly 30 years thinking deeply about the issues surrounding schools like this. And I know that the best solutions to this problem are good local planning and monitoring of education and specific interventions to prevent the development of sink schools.

Your child will be okay if at your local community school if they have a good group of friends, if the school has an academic provision appropriate for them and if the school is not a 'spiralling sink school'. There have been specific policies which have been very effective in preventing the generation of sink schools. The most effective, in my experience, has been 'Excellence Cluster funding' which was provided to ensure that schools in deprived areas retained top sets with high standards, even if those top sets were smaller in order to retain those standards. This stopped the bright kids leaving on the grounds that they were not being properly provided for and it is when all the bright kids leave on mass, which can so easily happen that serious sink school status happens, that the pernicious sink school descent starts.

Substantial progress was made in the elimination of sink schools over recent years due to focused attention on the issues associated with them. The free schools policy will clearly lead to the rapid creation of many new ones as that is what happens when there is the sudden movement of students out of schools without careful planning to ensure that it does not. Free schools will not deliver choice for all parents (this is not possible in a complete education system where schools have to be of a reasonable size to be viable) - they will deliver choice for some at the expense of other as any coherent analysis shows.

None of this helps you when you are facing sending your kids to a sink school. I'm really sorry about that.

Warwick Cairns's picture
Wed, 19/10/2011 - 20:24

I can't see why you'd want to send your children to, say, a catholic school, if you're not a catholic. I can't think why you'd want them being taught their rosary by nuns if you think it's a lot of old stuff and nonsense. Ditto for other religions and denominations. It strikes me that if you're going to have religious schools (and I'm agnostic on that particular question) then it's best for the ethos of the school, and best for the parents and their children, if they all share the same religion. Or am I missing something?

FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 05/01/2013 - 15:12

No, you have hit the nail on the head, though there is a lot more to a Catholic school than the Rosary. I also hope that other contributors will realise that religious people pay taxes as well, so why should they not have their reasonable needs met? Many church schools (all Catholic ones, as far as I know) are voluntary aided, so the buildings are owned by the Church or a religious order, which might well have born some or all of the cost of setting up the school in the first place. They also make a contribution to capital expenditure. The state is getting quite a good deal. As for the London Oratory School, a lot of what is said above is untrue, ill-informed and motivated by spite and prejudice. I speak from intimate knowledge, of of the school.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 05/01/2013 - 15:29

"so why should they not have their reasonable needs met?"

Would their reasonable needs not be met by there being secular community secondary schools with multi-faith rooms in which local faith groups could lay on specific provision from their faith at different lunch times or other times and with local faith group representatives being invited in to help deliver RE and to get involved in whatever support they wanted to offer to the school Finbar?

FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 05/01/2013 - 15:53

I don't think you understand much about what a church school is. It is not just a secular school with RE and a chapel bolted on. The ethos is different in many ways. The approach to PSHE, charitable activities, values and so on is different. I am not suggesting that secular schools are amoral places, but they are not the same.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 05/01/2013 - 16:40

I went to a church school myself (CofE). I taught at a Catholic High School for six years. My son is at a church school (a CofE community school). I've always recognised and valued what faith schools bring.

I am at ease with community state faith primary schools and I'm not particularly worried about faith segregation at primary level except in cases where this is clearly linked to serious social issues.

I am against secondary state faith schools but in favour of incorporating the benefits faith schools bring and the contributions of all local faith groups into mainstream education. My level of insight into these things is much greater than you give me credit for. However I am well aware that most attack of faith schools are much more ignorant than what I believe is right and often step in to defend faith schools against such attacks. If you read the history of this forum you will see that I have often done that, bringing to light different aspects of the benefits of faith schools at different times.

FJ Murphy's picture
Sat, 05/01/2013 - 16:45


lyla's picture
Tue, 16/04/2013 - 19:05

Why has this petition been closed?

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