A faith school in Croydon has been criticised by the Schools Adjudicator for its “unfair” admissions procedures, which prioritise children who have been baptised and whose parents are active in the Catholic church.
The Adjudicator said that Coloma Convent Girls’ School in Shirley, Croydon, was failing to represent the ethnic and social mix of the local area. Concerns were raised that the admission criteria could lead to children from some groups, such as single-parent or immigrant families, who may be less able to play a part in church life, being disadvantaged.
The school was judged ‘outstanding’ in its latest Ofsted report and is heavily oversubscribed. However complaints have been raised over its admissions criteria both by a parent and by the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.
The school’s policy awards points to children based on whether and how early in life they were baptised, and on how active they or their parents are in a Catholic parish or the wider church.
A parent had complained to the Schools Adjudicator, part of the Department of Education, that the use of the baptism criterion was unfair. The Diocese also felt that the school’s procedures were stricter than the guidelines it sets out allow.
Schools Adjudicator Dr Bryan Slater partially upheld the complaints.
In the case of the objection made by the Diocese, he said: “there is evidence of unfairness of the sort that constitutes a breach of the [School Admissions] Code.”
The school had said that it has “a good ethnic and socio-economic mix” of students, and that the only alternative to its current policy would be to prioritise families who live closer to the school, which would itself be unfair.
The Adjudicator’s report said other options were available, however, and found that: “the ethnic and social mix of the School is currently unrepresentative of the area of the School.”
Slater wrote: “The evidence is that Coloma admits considerably fewer girls from ethnic minorities than is the average for secondary schools in the area… and that a significantly lower proportion of girls attending Coloma are entitled to free school meals than is the national average, the Croydon average, or the average for Croydon’s other Catholic secondary schools.”
He stopped short of recommending that the policy should be changed, but said: “Better justification will be needed if the School’s practice is to continue in its arrangements for admissions in 2013/14.”
Dr Anne Bamford, Director of Education at the Archdiocese’s Commission for Schools and Colleges, said it worked ‘’very closely’’ with the school on educational and spiritual matters, adding: ‘’Coloma is an outstanding school that provides an invaluable contribution to Catholic education.”
Bamford said the Department for Education has recently published revised Draft Admissions and Appeals Codes. “This means that the Commission and the majority of schools and colleges in the Diocese, including Coloma, will be discussing and consulting on the topic of admissions and will take the opportunity to consider their policies and procedures.”
EastLondonLines contacted Coloma school for a comment, but they have not yet replied. Their statement will be published if and when it is made.