Monday, 12 March 2012

BHA: 'Faith' Schools And Discrimination



Last week The Guardian published groundbreaking research which was informed by the BHA revealing the huge extent to which English ‘faith’ schools exclude pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM). It has long been known that ‘faith’ schools take fewer pupils eligible for FSM than average, but always been retorted that this is because ‘faith’ schools are typically in more rural areas where there are fewer poor families. We worked with the Guardian to interrogate data to see if this is true.

The research looks at all ‘faith’ schools and compares them to others in their same local authority and their same post code. Amongst the findings were that 73% of Catholic primary schools and 72% of secondaries take fewer pupils eligible for FSM than the average in their local authority whereas on the flipside for schools without a religious character, 51% of primaries and 45% of secondaries take fewer pupils eligible for FSM than the average in their local authority.

The BHA’s position has always been that that allowing religious discrimination within our state system exacerbates socio-economic inequality as well as being religiously and ethnically divisive. Academic studies have shown that, in state schools that select on religious grounds, there end up being fewer pupils from poorer backgrounds and that any selection favours more affluent parents who know how to play the system.

The BHA will continue its work in education to urge the government to end faith-based selection in all state-funded schools.