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Faith schools accused of failing to admit pupils from poor homes

Church of England schools that select pupils on religious grounds are considerably less likely than other community schools to accept children from poor homes, according to a new study.

CofE schools that admit all of their children based on their faith accept 31 per cent fewer pupils on free school meals than would be expected of their local areas, according to figures released by the Fair Admissions Campaign group.

Pupils from poor backgrounds are more likely to get places at CofE secondary schools that do not select on religious grounds, according to the sudy.

Secular comprehensives admit 11 per cent more pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expected, the study found.

But overall, CofE secondaries accept 10 per cent fewer poor children than would be expected in their local areas, Roman Catholic secondaries 24 per cent fewer, Jewish secondaries 61 per cent fewer; and Muslim secondaries 25 per cent fewer.

The statistics were based on population samples smaller than local authority boundaries. The Campaign opposes selection of pupils by state schools on the basis of religion.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chairman of the Accord coalition for inclusive education, said the research exposed “the hypocrisy of those who claim religiously selective schools serve the community at large".

"They not only further segregate children on religious and ethnic grounds, but also are skewed towards serving the affluent at the expense of the deprived,” he said.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "State funded faith schools remain the principal source and cause of discrimination and selection within our school system. Any objective and intelligent reading of the figures bears this out."

But last month Bishop John Pritchard, the head of education for the Church of England, told the General Synod that 15 per cent of pupils were eligible for free school meals at its secondary schools, in line with the national average.

The Rev Jan Ainsworth, Church of England chief education officer, said: "Church schools are a central part of our mission to serve the common good ... They are open to children of Christian faith, of other faiths and of none.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Education Service said: “Catholic schools have higher proportions of pupils from ethnic minorities than other state schools and larger than average catchment areas which promote greater community cohesion."

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