Posted: Wed, 08 Aug 2018
A parent from Harpenden in Hertfordshire on the difficulty facing non-religious families trying to find a school place.
When we applied for a primary school place for our son, we received a non-ranked allocation at a school a long way from our home, along with 65 other families. To help alleviate the shortage of school places, Hertfordshire County Council decided to open up a new form with 30 places but chose to expand a religious primary school. That school's admissions criteria discriminate against families that do not attend church by prioritising children who could prove they had attended church above others. Therefore, those extra places were only allocated to church-going families. We were frustrated that the expansion occurred at a non-inclusive school and excluded our family.
Our son has gone through primary education and this year we applied for a secondary school place. There is still the same shortage of school places that was there for primary. There are three secondary schools in the town but one is religious and discriminates against those who do not attend church. This means that those who go to church for two years prior to applications and convince a priest/vicar to sign a form have a greater choice of schools. For some of those who did not attend church, it meant they were unable to obtain a place at one of the schools in the town they live in.
In our experience, the presence of schools with admissions policies that discriminate against non-church going families results in greater choice for church-goers and a reduced choice for non-church goers. This is clearly unfair. If you changed 'church-goers' for 'white' or 'heterosexual' in the admissions criteria it would be unlawful so why is religion allowed to discriminate?
Our family are atheists and so we do not want our children to be educated in a religious school. The system needs to give equal access to all children and be inclusive. The only option is to have all schools as non-faith with secular admissions policies.