Giving points to date of baptism ‘neither proper nor legitimate’, Schools Adjudicator tells Oratory

Janet Downs's picture
The saga of the London Oratory’s admission criteria rumbles on. In April, the High Court ruled that part of an earlier decision by the Schools Adjudicator against the Oratory was ‘a mix of flawed reasoning and unfair process’. This was hailed as a victory by the Oratory, an oversubscribed Catholic school, despite the Judge upholding other parts of the earlier decision. This included ‘Catholic Service’ which the Judge said should not be included in the faith-based oversubscription criteria.

It appears, however, the Oratory requested information about a candidate’s time of baptism. The difference between a candidate’s birth date and his baptism date was included in a points system designed to differentiate between candidates – the more points, the greater the possibility of admission. The Oratory had argued that parents who sought baptism shortly after a child’s birth showed a greater ‘alignment with the ethos of the school’ than those who arranged a later baptism.

The Schools Adjudicator, however, has ruled that giving a ‘numerical value to the time of a candidate’s baptism’ and asking whether the candidate has taken First Holy Communion is not permissible. The Oratory has been asked again to rewrite its admission criteria to align with the Schools Admission Code.

The Oratory’s head, David McFadden, told the BBC he thought the Office of the Schools Adjudicator is ‘just not fit for purpose’. He regrets the amount of time and money the Oratory has had to spend defending its criteria. But this cost could have been avoided if the Oratory had complied with the Code in the first place. Being a Catholic school doesn't give a right to flout laws which other schools have to follow.
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Michele -Lowe's picture
Mon, 22/06/2015 - 10:45

Quite so. It seems to me that if governments set up faith schools, this is precisely the kind of behaviour which is going to emerge. It doesn't matter how many guidelines and regulations are set down, the nature of a faith school will be to do this to varying degrees. If parents want a religious education for their children they can just take them to church/temple/mosque/shul/meeting room for low church (and others I haven't mentioned). We have freedom of worship in the UK. It's one of the blessings of a pluralistic society.

mistemina's picture
Mon, 22/06/2015 - 12:19

The arrogance gifted to free/religious/grammar/private schools by the government is now taking shape.
That this school can take matters to the High Court is a big indicator on the imbalance of funding.
Lastly, I know this school, its pupil cohort is from the rich prepared to spend money on their children; not that one can blame them for these base instincts - it is only natural and oh so easily manipulable.

Michele -Lowe's picture
Mon, 22/06/2015 - 13:51

Forgive my ignorance here, but how can schools afford this kind of legal action? Who pays? Even if the means are granted to all schools to fight these kinds of cases, how do they justify the amount of time and energy which goes into them?

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Mon, 22/06/2015 - 14:44

the school receives a lot of money from its alumni etc ( presumably)...a couple of years ago it sucked up most of the councils schools improvement funds simply being able to "match fund " by millions of pounds ...

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Mon, 22/06/2015 - 14:47

Actually ...should we be objecting to a admissions proposal which actually seems to attempt to prioritise committed catholic families over the pseudo-caths ???They had to dumb down the two catholic parents criteria to get the great and the good in ...perhaps they're actually trying to enforce a stronger faith ethos ???

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 23/06/2015 - 12:09

Rosie - that's what the school argued. But the Adjudicator decided this was 'unduly harsh on genuine late converts'. The adjudicator ruled:

'... it is evident that the school has introduced a requirement more demanding – and, arguably, arbitrarily “scored” – than that set out in either canon law or the guidance. On baptism, the guidance also makes reference (§A12) to canon law, but to canon 205 which merely states, “those baptised are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church …” without any mention of the time at which baptism may have taken place.'

This wouldn't rule at the 'pseudo-caths', of course. Which is why the faith criteria should be abolished to avoid this hypocrisy. The school could still maintain a Catholic ethos, and that in itself would sift out many non-Catholics and result in a degree of self-selection, but all state-funded schools should be prepared to educate children from all backgrounds and not discriminate on grounds of faith.

Rosie Fergusson's picture
Wed, 24/06/2015 - 18:09

thanks J,......may l remind readers " and not discriminate on grounds of "no-faith" ; the inner Leeds voluntary aided christian primary schools continue to do , leaving the vulnerable agnostic child living 10 feet from their gates at the bottom of the pile for selection against any child of a world faith some distance away.

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