Catholic schools committed to follow new admissions code

 Following media reports on research which imply that faith schools are not adhering to new rules on admissions, Oona Stannard, Chief Executive and Director of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, issued the following statement on Friday.

The reporting about faith schools' alleged failure to adhere to 'new rules on admissions' is seriously misleading. It certainly does not accurately represent the experience of the Catholic Church, nor the discussions and feedback the CES has received from Sir Philip Hunter during the course of his scrutiny exercise on the 2009 Admission Arrangements of maintained schools.

The CES is entirely behind any work necessary to help schools better understand the School Admissions Code and its technicalities and all our evidence tells us that Sir Philip is right when he says that any potential non-compliance identified by the barristers' reports "was not willful disregard of the law, but administrative confusion." Further that "There was nothing that led me to believe that these schools were intentionally trying to select"

The CES has been involved in a number of discussions with Sir Philip Hunter during the course of the exercise and he has been at pains to stress that the majority of points identified by the barristers are of a minor and technical nature e.g. in certain cases the barristers' reports had suggested tightening up of definitions. We are working at a national and diocesan level to ensure that these are made clearer where necessary. There has certainly been no suggestion by Sir Philip that there are serious contraventions involving 50% of our schools.

We have been informed that the points identified by the barristers engaged to carry out the exercise were advisory only and it was for authorities, in the case of Catholic VA schools their governing bodies, to consider the points identified and whether, and if so which points needed to be acted upon. In this task they have been assisted by their dioceses in close collaboration with Local Authorities. Sir Philip has acknowledged to us the hard work and considerable good will that has been demonstrated by all involved in the process as they work together to ensure a fair admissions process for all.

In conclusion we believe that the current admissions system is generally working well. The current scrutiny exercise is simply serving to iron out any residual confusion following the introduction of the School Admissions Code from February 2007. We welcome that and work within it.

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