“I can’t understand how we can have three schools 0.4 miles away but due to religious discrimination we are unable to get in any. I now won’t be able to return to work as I can’t get my son to his school and me into work.”
Due to a specific exemption in the Equality Act 2010, state-funded ‘faith’ schools in England and Wales are generally allowed to select up to 100% of their pupils by religion, but only when oversubscribed. If there are more places at the school than pupils applying, the school must admit everyone who has applied, regardless of their religion.
As with Religious Education, the rules for school admissions differ depending on the type of school.
Voluntary-controlled (VC) schools, whose admissions arrangements are determined by the local authority, are generally not allowed by their local authorities to religiously select, though around a quarter of local authorities allow some VC schools to do this. In voluntary-aided (VA) and foundation schools, admissions arrangements are set by the governing body, who may impose religious criteria on 100% places, and typically do so.
In England, where an academy has replaced a pre-existing religiously-selective state school, the degree to which it religiously selects can be kept at the same level as it was prior to conversion. It may choose to reduce the degree to which it religiously selects, or it may increase it. A VC school that converts into an Academy gains control of its own admissions policy. However, Free Schools (i.e. new academies starting from scratch) designated with a religious character may select only 50% of pupils by reference to faith.
There is nothing in UK or European law that gives parents the right to have their child educated at (or not at) a ‘faith’ school. For this reason, many pupils end up being allocated places at schools with a religious character or ethos that they do not subscribe to. Whilst there is very little that can be done to get round this in individual cases, parents are entitled to appeal. The rules surrounding such appeals are set out in the School Admission Appeals Codes for England and Wales respectively.
More information on the law surrounding school admissions can be found on the Fair Admissions Campaign website.
Private schools with a religious character are able to religiously discriminate in their admissions policies, and do not have to follow the School Admissions Code. This means they do not have to set clear, fair or objective policies, nor do they have to admit applicants of other faiths whether undersubscribed or not.