‘Why a campaign group was wrong to complain about my school’s racial intake’

Religious schools have been accused of racial segregation – but is the picture accurate? Headteacher Paul Halliewell says his school was unfairly targeted.

In Science we teach pupils not to make an evaluation without evidence to back it up. During research, if you only choose to use the evidence that supports your original hypothesis and ignore everything else, the evaluation is unfair and biased.

Unfortunately, it seems the Fair Admissions Campaign missed that lesson when compiling their latest report, Racial discrimination by religiously selective faith schools: a worsening problem.

The report is based on the assumption that religion and race are one and the same thing, stating the correlation between faith and ethnic groups as their evidence.

To further this point they identified my school, St Bonaventure’s in Newham, as one of their examples of an ethnically exclusive school.

Their argument was simple: despite there being a large number of one particular ethnic grouping in the local area, why was that not reflected in our school’s ethnic make-up?

But 95% of pupils at St Bonaventure’s come from an ethnic minority background and Newham is the most ethnically, racially and culturally diverse place on the Earth. The catchment area for St Bonaventure’s is the whole of the London Borough of Newham and not just one small area of Forest Gate. St Bonaventure’s has an incredibly strong track record of taking in boys from all cultures and walks of life and turning them into respectable and well educated young men.

What’s more the report fails to take into account the ethnic trends of Catholic education across the country. The Fair Admissions Campaign and their associates in the Accord Coalition time and time again make the tenuous claim that all faith-based admissions lead to social exclusion.

If you take London alone, one in five of the Capital’s black pupils is educated at a Catholic school and the schools are the most ethnically diverse in the city.

To make their point the Fair Admissions Campaign, reported us to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA), and submitted us to freedom of information requests over our levels of intake.

Naturally we were extremely pleased that the OSA found in our favour, however we were left with the bitter taste in our mouth that countless hours of staff time had been spent on this rather than being focussed on improving the life chances of our pupils.

The OSA plays a vital role in our education system. The independent body protects parents and pupils ensuring fair admissions practices are maintained across the country, and we are always happy to work with them.

However, in their most recent report, the OSA claimed that its 36% increase in expenditure on last year was, in part, due to ‘determining the large number of cases lodged by one pressure group using objections to admissions arrangements to further its aims.’

I think their time is better spent dealing with genuine disputes rather than being flooded with objections from campaign groups.

I’m sure that if any member of the Fair Admissions Campaign were to walk into any Catholic school they would see a prime example of multiculturalism and a beacon of inclusivity, just like St Bonaventure’s is.

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

One comment

  1. Ivabradine

    An interesting article. Mr Halliwell suggests that other Catholic schools might encourage integration as his one does. I live in a leafy suburb of London on the same hill as a large grant-aided Catholic school. Because of the wide catchment area of faith schools, many boys come from the tough estates nearby.The boys come down the hill every afternoon and, going by the criterion of colour, the social groups are quite integrated. They are also well behaved.

    I happen to know, because my grandson was school captain a few years back, that social integration was an active school value. And it was part of his responsibilities as captain.