Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Come All Ye Faithful, Tuneful and Artistic: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Come All Ye Faithful, Tuneful and Artistic: News

Article excerpt

Parents who partake in approved activities favoured by school.

The London Oratory School is renowned for being one of the most sought after in the capital, with even former a prime minister beating a path to its door. Tony Blair was so keen to send his children to the Catholic secondary that he was prepared to put up with being pilloried by the press for snubbing his local comprehensive. The current deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, has also expressed an interest in sending his son to the London Oratory.

The academy, which does not admit girls until the sixth form, is rated outstanding by Ofsted and receives more than six applications for every place it offers. But it has this week found itself on the end of some stinging criticism for unfairly giving priority to applications from parents who are involved in flower arranging, Bible readings and singing in the church choir.

Other approved activities listed on the school's website as meeting its criteria for "service in any Catholic parish or in the wider Catholic church" include visiting the "sick, housebound or disadvantaged" and carrying out "housekeeping and maintenance of church property".

Schools adjudicator Andrew Baxter has ruled that giving priority to children whose parents have served the church is not allowed. While the school is permitted to use oversubscription criteria favouring pupils whose families regularly attend Mass, have been baptised in the Catholic church or received communion, the admissions code bans schools from assessing applications "on the basis of any practical or financial support parents may give to the school or any associated organisation, including any religious authority".

Mr Baxter's ruling also revealed that the school's admissions policy was at odds with advice from the Diocese of Westminster. "The representatives of the diocese ... consider that, while such a criterion may demonstrate that certain parents and children are conscientiously practising their Catholic faith, it is not an appropriate measure of Catholic practice as it disadvantages other equally conscientious Catholic families who choose to fulfil their obligations in other ways," he wrote. …

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