By Toby Young, Spectator
An email popped into my inbox on Tuesday morning urging me to join a ‘fair admissions campaign’ that’s been launched by a couple of mums in Shepherd’s Bush. Their children are at a local primary school and they’re angry that they won’t be able to get them into any of the local faith schools. ‘Two of our children are in Year Five and we feel offended by the fact that out of 11 secondary schools in the borough almost half will put them at the very bottom of the waiting list due to our “wrong” beliefs,’ they write.
Now, I’m probably among the dozen or so local residents least likely to join this campaign but, to be fair, I don’t think they singled me out. Rather, they sent the same email to hundreds of people, hoping to cash in on the fact that Tuesday was ‘National Offer Day’, the day when parents who’ve applied to state secondaries learn their children’s fate.
I have some sympathy for these women. One of the reasons I helped set up the West London Free School is because I, too, was unhappy about the quality of education being offered by the local secular comprehensives. But that was five years ago. There are three new secondary schools in the borough now — two of them free schools — and the old ones have got better. For instance, the percentage of children getting five A–Cs in their GCSEs including English and maths at Fulham Cross Girls’ School was 48 per cent in 2008, compared to 69 per cent in 2013. The gap in quality between local comprehensives and local faith schools is closing.
However, I’m afraid that’s where my sympathy ends. What parents who complain about being excluded from faith schools don’t understand is that the reason they’re above average — which is why they want to send their children to them in the first place — is precisely because of their religious ethos.