It’s a little early for us – our eldest is just entering Year 5 – but we are starting to get an idea of how the admissions procedure for Faith School High (as I shall call it) works. There seems to be a lot of confusion and rumour about getting in to the school judging on some of the conversations I’ve had with parents: I guess this reflects the anxiety around the whole thing.
I recently attended a meeting given by Faith High to parents of children in Years 4, 5, and 6. The official admissions seems to work in the following order:
- Looked-after children get first pick – I think this is a legal requirement. There are not likely to be more than a hand-full of these at most.
- Then children from a Church of England background with the letter from the Vicar. About 40% of Faith High’s intake comes this way.
- Next, children from another Christian denomination. (This might explain the story that so-and-so went to the Methodist church for over two years and still didn’t get her kids in.)
- Children from another faith.
- The siblings of children already there.
- Then children from a short list of approved catchment Primaries. This was an odd one: the list was not a list of nearby CofE schools as you would expect. Indeed, some were quite a distance away, and our children’s school – which is CofE and one of the nearest Primary Schools to Faith High – was not on this list. The representative at the meeting explained this was because they were “diocese schools”. Not sure what they are: I might spend something trying to disentangle the different types of faith school sometime.
- Those who have put the school as first choice and got the application letter in by the deadline. (Non-believers, know your place.)
That’s about it, I think. This is mainly from memory.
One woman, with great candour, asked if this meant it was possible to get in without going to Church. They replied, Yes, it was and that there are children at Faith High who are not looked-after, do not come from a faith background and have no siblings at the school. She looked relieved. I think I have seen her in church recently; I wonder is I will again?
But… Given that the whole exercise was to sell the school to us, should I therefore stop attending Church (“Hallelujah!”) and trust to the admissions process? Hmmm…. As this means moving your place in the pecking-order from slot 2 to slot 7 probably not.
So, given that the alternative is Sink Estate College, we will continue with the church-going and try to end up in slot 2.
The one positive thing we can take from this is that if you can hold your nose and attend church, you’re almost guaranteed a place. This probably explains why so many are complicit in this obviously partisan and unfair admissions system.
(Part 2 will be about how we actually get the letter signed by the Vicar when the time comes.)
Some light relief.
As I’ve said before, I strongly suspect that the vast majority of the parent-age attendees at the church we go to are non-believers hoping to get the school admissions procedure to work in their interest. The aim is to get yourself seen as much as possible, maybe help with a coffee morning or deliver some leaflets, and get the Vicar’s signature. I know this for a fact about some other parents who attend. We are friendly with two couples and often end up with them; sitting towards the back of the church – rather like the “bad lads” on the school bus.
Imagine the frustration a couple of weeks ago when a group of us were sitting near the back in the centre aisle waiting for the service to begin. About two rows in front of us was one of the Curates (I think that is what he is: a sort of junior vicar who sometimes helps in the service). I pointed him out to one of our group. She whispered back “another one at 2 O’clock”; and sure enough there was an older vicar (who may have given a sermon to us in the past) a few rows forward and to the right. After that another one was spotted at 10 O’clock – this time unknown to us but he definitely meant business with his dog-collar clearly visible. We all had to be on our best behaviour for the next hour and put on a heightened display of piety.
Where did all these Vicars come from? Haven’t they got churches of their own to go to?
According to this news release from the British Humanist Association:
Before MPs have had a chance to debate the Academies Bill, the government has already stated that it has no plans to prevent creationist teaching in its new “faith” Academies, citing its desire to free schools from prescriptive curricula. This is remarkable given the fact that it is nonetheless requiring all of its new Academies to teach RE and hold daily acts of collective worship.
My emphasis. As I wondered earlier would it be possible for someone like Richard Dawkins to set up a Free Thinking School only for it to be compelled by law to hold acts of worship. On the other hand, a religious group could set up a school and would have no statutory requirement to teach basic scientific fact.
I really don’t understand this desire by all UK Governments to promote religion in schools. Even a Government prepared to let some schools ditch the National Curriculum. Why is this? I genuinely don’t understand.