10:00am Friday 5th April 2013
By Rachel Bishop
A campaign group for equal access to school places has spoken out about foundation places giving preference to children of worshippers at local churches.
St Stephen’s Primary School in St Margarets has introduced six foundation places that will give preference to children of worshippers at local churches, with St Stephen’s Church top of the list.
The school’s governors unanimously agreed on the decision at a meeting on March 21, despite objections from campaign group, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (Risc) and residents.
Risc, which has fought against elements of the selection process for the now approved St Richard Reynolds School in Twickenham, said it disagreed with what it called “faith places”.
Until 2011/12, most children at St Stephen’s Junior School had come from nearby Orleans Infants, a community school with no faith-based selection.
However, now both schools are all-through primary schools, with St Stephen’s setting aside six places for churchgoers.
Risc welcomed some other changes to the admissions arrangements, but was concerned that, with parents already anxious about finding school places, the increased prominence of faith-based selection meant some parents would feel obliged to attend church to have an equal chance of getting their children into their local state primary school.
A Risc spokesman said: “We are disappointed that an opportunity is being missed to eliminate faith-based selection at St Stephen’s altogether. We believe it’s unfair for a state-funded school to discriminate against local children because their parents are not practising Christians.”
A spokesman for St Stephen’s Primary School governors said: “There will now be 120 primary places on offer per year [combining the two schools] and only six of them will be faith-based.
“We recognise this is a very limited number, but the governors felt it was important to give parents who want their children to have a faith element to their education, a chance of doing so.
“At present a number who attend St Stephen’s Church are outside the catchment area for the school on distance.”
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group