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London faith secondary schools cater for affluent pupils

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Overall, religious secondary schools in London educate a much smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals than non-religious schools and their intakes are significantly more affluent than the neighbourhood they are located in. In the main, pupils have higher levels of prior attainment than pupils in nonreligious schools.

These were the main findings of a paper, Religious Schools in London: School Admissions, Religious Composition and Selectivity?, presented at the British Educational Research Association Conference in London on Friday 7 September.

Researchers Rebecca Allen, based at the Institute of Education, University of London, and Professor Anne West, Professor of Education Policy at LSE, looked at the two issues of school segregation and school selectivity.

They asked to what extent religious schools are segregating pupils by religiosity and associated with this, ethnicity, and, to what extent religious schools are selective in terms of the social composition of schools and (related to this) academic ability.

The researchers found that:

  • Many religious secondary schools in London are not serving the most disadvantaged pupils
  • Overall, religious schools educate a much smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and their intakes are significantly more affluent than the neighbourhood they are located in
  • Within the religious sector there are both Catholic and Anglican socially selective 'élite' secondary schools which appear to 'select out' low income religious families, thereby displacing them to religious schools with less affluent composition

The researchers argue that some religious schools may have undergone a 'distortion of mission' given that they now cater predominantly for the more affluent.

In terms of policy, they suggest that such selection could be overcome by the introduction of a mechanism administered by churches/religious bodies by which families can prove their religious commitment. Religious schools could then rely solely on the presence of a signature on a form from a religious leader to decide who should be admitted. However, the paper also argues that segregation by religion and ethnicity will continue unless there are more significant changes to admissions to schools with a religious character.

Ends

Contact:

Anne West by emailing a.west@lse.ac.uk|

Esther Avery, LSE Press Office, 020 7955 7060, e.avery@lse.ac.uk|

Notes

For a full copy of the paper, Religious Schools in London: School Admissions, Religious Composition and Selectivity?, please email Anne West at a.west@lse.ac.uk| 

Press cuttings

Church Times
Church schools not 'cherry-picking' say C of E officers (21 Sep)
Article about recent research based on analysis of official data by Rebecca Allen of the Institute of Education, University of London; and Anne West, Professor of Education Policy at LSE. They say that, compared with community schools, C of E and RC secondary schools in London educate only 17 per cent of pupils who qualify for free school meals - an indicator of poverty - compared with 25 per cent in community schools.

Religious Intelligence
Churches defend faith schools in Britain
(20 Sep)
This week two leading educationists studied in depth the intake patterns registered for faith schools, using data obtained from the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Rebecca Allen, of London's Institute of Education and Professor Anne West, Professor of Education Policy at LSE said that many secondary faith schools effectively cherry picked their pupils and that their students often do not reflect the underprivileged areas within the school's neighbourhood.

ALT.org
Faith schools 'educating middle classes' (17 September)
Faith schools across London select a larger-than-average proportion of their intake from affluent middle-class families, new research has claimed. A study conducted by Rebecca Allen from the Institute of Education, University of London and Professor Anne West, LSE, has found that faith schools, in general, educate children from families that are 'significantly more affluent' than those in the neighbourhood in which the schools are located.

Observer
Faith schools 'cherry picking' (16 September)
Faith schools are 'cherry picking' too many children from affluent families and contributing to racial and religious segregation, according to the most extensive research of its kind, based on the government's own data. The research was carried out by Rebecca Allen, of the Institute of Education, University of London, and Professor Anne West, professor of education policy at LSE. 

TES
Faith schools on the road to expansion (14 September)
But research published this week casts doubt on claims by faith-school leaders that they are serving all sections of society. Rebecca Allen, of London University's Institute of Education, and Anne West, of the London School of Economics, said religious secondaries in London do not serve the most disadvantaged pupils. 'Overall, religious schools educate a much smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and their intakes are significantly more affluent than the neighbourhood they are located in,' they said. 

14 September 2007

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