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Faith schools accused of being 'back-door grammar schools'

Fri 12 Dec 2014
By Premier Journalist

It's as new figures from the Department for Education have revealed faith schools make up a majority of the top-performing primary schools.

The league tables show schools with 'a religious ethos' make up 62% of the schools that reached the government's targets for pupil's levels of reading, writing and maths.

That's a higher percentage than last year (60%) and despite the fact faith schools only makeup roughly a third of the overall number of primaries in England.

Of the top 693 schools in England, 330 were Church of England and 88 were Roman Catholic.

For the first time a Sikh school was also featured; Guru Nanak Academy in Hayes, in West London.

Faith schools have argued that a religious ethos, a focus on pastoral assistance and support from church-going families is behind their successful results.

Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, The Rev Nigel Genders, says he's "pleased" with the results:

"We are working hard to ensure that the excellent practice in these high-performing schools is hared across our network and beyond, so that all schools can achieve the best for their pupils."

"I am particularly pleased that our highest-performing schools, Hampden Gurney, has secured fantastic outcomes with a significant number of disadvantaged pupils in Year 6 - demonstrating once again that a child's success should never be limited by their background."

But critics have accused faith schools of simply selecting the brightest children from the more middle-class, affluent families, which may be skewing their results.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain is from The Accord Coalition, which campaigns for change in faith schools' admissions policies.

He argues some well-off, middle-class families are 'faking their faith' to get their kids into the best schools: 

"Unfortunately it's a social reality, and the only way we're going to stop this is by the government changing the rules and the admission criteria, where schools have to serve the local population.

"Otherwise, if they are going to select, they need to be upfront about it and say 'Look, we're grammar schools, we're going to take according to ability and we're just going to go for the brainiest children.

"That is a legitimate view, if you hold that, but at the moment people are really using faith schools as 'back-door grammar schools'."

Listen to the full interview with Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain and Premier's Holly Powell-Jones: 

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