Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Saying It with Flowers Still Opens Faith School's Doors: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Saying It with Flowers Still Opens Faith School's Doors: News

Article excerpt

But church cleaning is off its criticised list of approved activities.

Cleaning their local church will no longer be enough to help parents get their child into one of the country's most prestigious Catholic schools - but flower arranging might still do the trick, TES has learned.

After an official ruling, the London Oratory School - recently chosen by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg for one of his sons - has been forced to remove "cleaning" and "maintenance of church property" from its admissions policy as examples of how parents can prove their religious adherence.

The move came after the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) ruled that allowing parents to bolster their applications through serving their local church went against the School Admissions Code.

But other examples highlighted by the OSA as areas of concern have remained in the Oratory's admissions policy, such as assisting in church services through flower arranging, bible reading or playing a musical instrument, or helping with good works in the parish.

Under the admissions code, schools are permitted to use oversubscription criteria that favour students whose families regularly attend Mass, who have been baptised in the Catholic Church or who have received communion. But the 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".

The case of the Oratory, according to secular campaigners, is a prime example of the confusing rules that govern admissions to faith schools.

The OSA said that the Oratory's admissions policy had been at odds with advice from the Diocese of Westminster, which states that "service to the church" is "not an appropriate measure of Catholic practice" as it disadvantages parents who fulfil their religious obligations in other ways. However, the adjudicator does not carry out follow-up checks to ensure that its rulings have been taken into consideration.

Oratory headteacher David McFadden said the school had chosen to retain references to activities such as flower arranging and playing music because they "have specific liturgical significance in the Catholic Church and make a direct contribution to worship". Cleaning, he said in a statement, "is not so easily seen as linked to the practice of faith and spiritual life of the Church" and was therefore removed. …

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