Archbishop denies change in position on CofE school admissions

Published 14 November 2013  |  
(PA)
A pupil at St George's C of E Primary School in Stockport, writes about the Muslim faith during a religious education lesson in this photo dated Wednesday July 6, 2011.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has released a statement affirming his support for the use of faith-based criteria when it comes to selecting pupils for church schools.

Following an article in The Times that suggested Archbishop Justin Welby had advocated a change in position, the Most Reverend Justin Welby dismissed the idea that he was supporting a revision of policy.

In his interview with Ruth Gledhill, Religious Correspondent for The Times, the Archbishop praised the work of church schools and placed special emphasis on the importance of family and "outstanding school leadership" in education.

He spoke of the growing "commitment to the common good" of Church schools" and "a steady move away from faith-based entry tests".

However, his office at Lambeth Palace issued a statement clarifying that the Archbishop was not advocating a change in policy and remains in support of the ability for church schools to set their own admissions criteria.

"I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith.," he said.

"Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as 'revealing' any changes nor dissenting from current policy."

The Church is the biggest education provider in England, with an estimated million children currently attending one of its schools.

These schools are widely renowned for their excellence and consistently achieve top results, which has led to them being oversubscribed across the country.

Many church schools favour the allocation of places to students whose parents are regular churchgoers and attendance registers are sometimes taken in churches within the catchment area of the most popular schools.

This had led to the coining of the phrase "get on your knees, avoid the fees", in reference to the possibility of pupils receiving a private school level of education without their parents incurring the cost.

The Church of England has been criticised in the past for taking faith into consideration in the admissions process to its schools, with some labelling the system unfair and biased.

Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Associaton said admission criteria based on faith "segregates pupils on the basis of their parents' beliefs and on socio-economic and ethnic grounds. Any move to end it must be welcome."

In his interview, the Archbishop maintained however that "the Church is part of the solution for building community blessing at local level ... [it] has been an integral part of delivering education in this country since before the state ever agreed to get involved."

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