London Oratory Defies Ruling on Admission Policies

School required to "revise its arrangements as quickly as possible"

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London Oratory Defies Ruling on Admission Policies

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London Oratory School is defying a legally binding ruling by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, or OSA, by refusing to change its current admissions policy.

The Seagrave Road Roman Catholic school's policy uses a grid system to score potential pupils against eight mainly religious criteria, including whether parents spend at least three years on church duties, for example singing in the choir, arranging flowers or voluntary work

In August, following an objection by the British Humanist Association, the OSA ruled that elements of the policy broke a section of the official admissions code intended to stop parents obtaining places by giving practical or financial support to schools or associated bodies such as churches.

The rule is intended to prevent non-selective schools covertly targeting an overly privileged intake, but the OSA criticised the policy's complexity withe the adjudicator David Lennard Jones admitting: " I needed some assistance in understanding the detail of the ranking and scoring process."

The adjudicator said the school’s "service" criterion requiring three years’ service by an applicant or their family "will favour those parents who are good at planning ahead and who are sufficiently well organised to identify the admission criteria, who ensure that they undertake the necessary activities and who keep sufficient records to be able to evidence that they have done this."

The adjudicator said he partially upheld the objection the admission arrangements and added: " The adjudicator’s decision is binding on the admission authority. The School Admissions Code requires the admission authority to revise its admission arrangements as quickly as possible."

However the 150 year old school, which consistently achieves some of the highest exam results in the borough, and is attended by Nick Clegg's son as well as Tony Blair's sons in the past, has told parents it will not change its admissions system for 2014, and says on its website the arrangements for 2014 will be "as published". The school is now consulting officials from the Department for Education to decide what to do next.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education confirmed: " All rulings by the OSA are legally binding. We expect all schools to make any necessary changes to their admissions arrangements once a ruling has been made. We have today met with the school and their lawyers to discuss how it can change its admissions arrangements to comply with the OSA determination."

Richy Thompson, British Humanist Association Faith Schools Campaigner said: "We are deeply concerned that this decision might be overturned. London Oratory School is in the ten most socio-economically selective secondaries in the country and the criterion requiring years of service to the Catholic Church is surely the main reason.

" It cannot be right that parents are required to engage in activities such as flower arranging to get their children into a state funded school and we hope that the sound decision that it is wrong is upheld.

" In addition, without wishing to prejudge the outcome of the process, it seems wholly inappropriate to us that a decision taken on a school’s admissions arrangements by objective experts now falls to the Department for Education, a political body, to enforce."

You can read the association's full response here.

November 7, 2013