‘I am pleased to announce that we have been successful with the Judicial Review quashing the ruling made by the adjudicator.’
, London Oratory School, 17 April 2015
In a High Court ruling
, Mr Justice Cobb overturned the finding of the School Adjudicator that London Oratory School, an over-subscribed Catholic school, had ‘operated an admissions system which was socially selective, discriminatory, and unfairly disadvantageous to children from “less well-off” families’. He ruled the Adjudicator had ‘reached this conclusion by a mix of flawed reasoning and unfair process’.
The Judge also ruled it was permissible for the school to ask parents to show their own baptismal certificates to prove they were Catholics.
The case arose because the Oratory objected to a July 2014 decision
by the Adjudicator following a complaint to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) by the British Humanist Association (BHA). It is OSA’s responsibility to decide if a school’s admission criteria adhere to the Schools Admission Code*. The Judge ruled the Adjudicator had acted conscientiously but went beyond his remit in ‘specific respects’ in a way that was ‘unlawful and/or unreasonable’.
Was this, then, a vindication of the London Oratory School as its press release claims?
The answer is not entirely.
There were matters beyond the ‘specific respects’. And the Judge ruled these other OSA decisions were ‘lawful’.
In other words, there were instances where the Judge upheld the Adjudicator’s findings. This is not made clear in the Oratory’s press release.
It refers to ‘key issues’ where the Judge found in favour of the school but not those where the Judge found against.
. The Judge agreed ‘it is not permissible to include “Catholic Service” as one of the faith-based oversubscription criteria.’ This means ‘flower arranging’ and other such services unconnected to religious observance could not be included.
2Statement for medical and social need
. The Adjudicator had concluded the school was unclear about what evidence was needed to support a claim of ‘medical and social need’. Neither did it define what these needs were. The Judge upheld the Adjudicator’s conclusion.
3Request for signatures of both parents
on the supplementary information form (SIF). The Adjudicator’s ‘critique’ of school’s 2015 SIF verged ‘on the pedantic’, the Judge said. Nevertheless he agreed it didn’t adhere to the Admission Code.
The Judge also said there needed to be ‘further determination’ about the Oratory’s apparent disregard of advice given by the Archdiocese of Westminster. He said he would request ‘further submissions’ before making a ruling.
The affair had dragged on too long, the Judge said, and was a ‘challenge’ to the school. But it should be remembered the ‘Catholic Service’ requirement had been overruled by OSA in late 2012 when the Adjudicator had also noted the Oratory didn’t adhere to guidelines from its Diocese. The Judge did not refer to this earlier judgement. If the school had accepted the 2012 adjudication in full it would not have been necessary for the BHA to complain to OSA. The Oratory in turn would have avoided a lengthy and costly legal challenge which has, the school admitted, diverted time and money away from educating its pupils.
*The Schools Admission Code used in this case was the one in operation at the time: the Code of 2012. It was revised in 2014.