House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
TAKEN BEFORE the
CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES COMMITTEE
Wednesday 12 March 2008
REBECCA ALLEN, PROFESSOR MARK HALSTEAD, PROFESSOR AUDREY OSLER and PROFESSOR ANNE WEST
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Children, Schools and Families Committee
on Wednesday 12 March 2008
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Chairman)
Mr. Douglas Carswell
Mr. David Chaytor
Mr. Andy Slaughter
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Rebecca Allen, Researcher, Institute of Education, London University, Professor Mark Halstead, Head, Department of Community and International Education, University of Huddersfield, Professor Audrey Osler, Research Professor, University of Leeds and Director, Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Education, and Professor Anne West, Professor of Education Policy and Director, Education Research Group, London School of Economics and Political Science, gave evidence.
Q185 <Chairman:> I welcome Professor Mark Halstead, Professor Audrey Osler, Rebecca Allen and Professor Anne West to our deliberations today. I thank all of you for attending and agreeing to give evidence to the Committee. We know some of you-certainly Audrey and Anne we know well in this Committee. We are also particularly delighted to see you, Professor Halstead, as you are from the university of Huddersfield. With a name like Halstead you must have some Yorkshire origins, as well. I declare an interest: I am the Member for Huddersfield and a visiting professor at the business school in Huddersfield, and I am a governor of the London School of Economics. All my declarations of interest are on the table. I do not have any official relationship with the Institute of Education at the university of London, but as a Committee we have some advisers from the institute, as you know.
It is not part of a plot that both the Secretary of State and the Minister for Schools and Learners made statements yesterday on faith schools and related matters such as admissions. It was as much of a surprise to the Committee that those statements were made as it was to the general public. It is interesting what was suggested yesterday. How many of you have seen the statements that were made by the Secretary of State and the Minister for Schools and Learners yesterday?
<Professor Halstead:> We heard the reports.
Q186 <Chairman:> Did it cause you great surprise, given that your well-known research is in this area, Professor West?
<Professor West:> No, it did not cause great surprise. I think that it was to be expected. We have already identified that some schools are in admission authorities that are using criteria that are not allowed, in research that we are currently undertaking, so it did not come as a surprise. I suspect that there will be fewer now than there were previously. However, while the regulations and the law are as they are, while schools are responsible for their own admissions-or some are-and while the stakes are so high, some schools are likely to use whatever means they can to select their intake. That is not necessarily across the board, but there are likely to be some. What we heard last night supports that, and some of the evidence that we have already gathered also supports that. Things are actually better than they were, in terms of the objectivity of the criteria and adhering to the code and the legislation.
Q187 <Chairman:> We know the history of this quite well as the Committee, nearly two years ago, had a particular role in looking at admissions, the White Paper and the Bill that developed out of that process. We made some strong recommendations about the admissions code and how to make it effective. Do you remember that particular development, Professor Osler?
<Professor Osler:> I am not really following admissions issues as part of my own research, but last summer when I was travelling round the country doing work with the Runnymede Trust collecting our data, local communities were expressing concerns about admissions-particularly that it was the most vulnerable children who were not being considered for faith school places.
Q188 <Chairman:> Just to put it on the record, the Committee recommended that schools should not merely take note of the admissions code, but that it should be obligatory. We said that the code should be strengthened and there should be more ways of calling the adjudicator in to make a judgment on whether schools were playing by that code of admissions. There was a group of recommendations. We believe that most of those recommendations would take effect with this year's intake. Is that a fair summary?
<Professor West:> I think so, yes. Some academics thought that the Government should take stronger action because of decisions taken by individual schools and because there is no clear accountability. Quite a lot of academics thought that another body that did not have a vested interest in the outcome of the admissions process should be responsible for admissions. However, that was a separate issue and did not form part of the Committee's conclusions.
Q189 <Chairman:> What has the research shown? I note, Rebecca Allen, that you have recently carried out research in this area. What were your main findings?
<Rebecca Allen:> The research that I have been writing is on why schools have become socially stratified. To that end, I have been considering the role of the housing market, the role of grammar schools and particularly the role of religious schools in the production of socially stratified schooling. In my most recent research-I have written a paper on England, and a separate paper with Anne West on London-I was able to show that religious schools have higher ability and lower free school meal intakes compared with the neighbourhoods in which they are located.
To give you an idea of the magnitude of those effects, if we take a community school and a voluntary-aided religious school, both located in a neighbourhood with exactly the same levels of deprivation, the community school is likely to have about 50% more free school meal children than the voluntary-aided school. There are big regional differences; the differences between voluntary-aided and community schools are very marked in London and quite marked in the north-west, but the differences are much less in the rest of the country.
Interestingly, I have also looked at foundation schools. Although they are located in relatively affluent parts of the country, on the whole they look much more like community schools than voluntary-aided religious schools in terms of their intake, relative to the neighbourhoods within which they are located.
Part of my research links to Anne West's. She has completed surveys of school admissions policies, and I have been able to match the data that I have produced with her data sets on school admissions policies. We are trying to look at the association between particular types of admission criteria, and the extent to which schools have advantaged intakes. We can show that there really is a direct correlation between the number of potentially selective admissions criteria that schools use, and the extent to which their intakes are advantaged.
Q190 <Chairman:> Anne West, would you like to add anything to that?
<Professor West:> I do not think so. That was a succinct account.
Q191 <Chairman:> I am doing the warm-up, and I wanted to ask you before we drill down into the questions.
Professor Halstead, what is your view? We have a body of research suggesting that the Government's intention of getting a fair system of admissions seems not yet to be fully effective. Does that concern you?
<Professor Halstead:> As you know, my expertise relates mainly to Muslim schools and the experience of Muslim students. I certainly think that we have not so far got things quite right in that respect. The broader issue of ethnicity complicates the situation regarding free school meals statistics and the comparison between mainly Church schools and non-religious schools. The Muslims, for example, are among the poorest of the communities in this country, as everyone knows, with nearly 50% of Bangladeshi children being in receipt of free school meals. They will struggle to get into anything other than community schools, so statistics may be affected by the fact that Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are much higher than the average in free school meals; and other minority groups weight the statistics of the community school more heavily. They are mainly Church schools that operate in the voluntary sector.
Q192 <Chairman:> But does your research compare the experience of Muslim schools with other faith schools?
<Professor Halstead:> No, it does not do so in that area.
Q193 <Chairman:> Looking at your CV, you have a wide-ranging research portfolio.
<Professor Halstead:> Yes, but my discipline is philosophy of education, and I am concerned mainly with looking at issues that affect Muslim children in particular, and minority children more generally, from a philosophical perspective. For example, I might consider how the right of children to an open future can be weighed against their right to some kind of continuity in the values that they receive in school, compared to those they receive at home. There are two kinds of rights, and a philosopher will be interested in balancing them. That issue is very relevant to Muslim children in particular, and to many other children from faith backgrounds.
<Chairman:> That is very important, and we will drill down on that issue with the benefit of your expertise. I am the warm-up act, as I always say, so let us get moving.
Q194 <Mr. Slaughter:> I direct this question mainly to Anne West, although obviously anyone can answer. I pick up on the point that you have just made about intake and entry to faith schools-the figures that you gave were quite stark in terms of the difference. They are somewhat different from what we heard from other sources and what the schools themselves may say. Why do you think that is? Today, we have seen some evidence that schools themselves are selecting, using crude methods such as charging for admission, and that that happens disproportionately with faith schools. Equally, where choice seems to be more of a factor than it would have been years ago, there seems to be an encouragement to parents of Christian faith, but also from wider faith groups, to seek out their own schools. Why do you think these discrepancies arise, and do you think that they are increasing?
<Rebecca Allen:> Perhaps I could start by commenting on why I think that people produce different statistics on the extent to which these schools are advantaged. It depends on whether you want to compare the intakes nationally or compare them to their local neighbourhood. For example, we know that religious schools are more likely to be located in urban areas, and that is why, overall, the proportions of pupils that take free school meals are relatively high-they are not as high as in community schools, but they are reasonably high. It is only when you start making comparisons with local neighbourhoods that you get these big patterns in terms of advantaged intakes relative to community schools.
<Professor West:> Is one of the points you make that parents have different preferences?
Q195 <Mr. Slaughter:> I am trying to understand-quite a stark figure has been given comparing like for like, or as near to that as is possible, but the free school meal intake in a community school could be 50% higher than in a faith school. Is that not quite a shocking figure?
<Professor West:> There is a range of reasons why we get those differences. Some are to do with parent preferences, and some to do with the criteria that schools use in the event of their being oversubscribed and the practices that they use. There is scope for subjectivity when it comes to making decisions not only about the criteria that schools use, but also how such things are then worked out in practice. We have not done any research into how that practice works within individual schools in their own admissions authority, so we do not know. We do know some of the outcomes relating to school composition, and we know that the legislation and codes that have been introduced over the years seem to have made a difference in terms of published admissions criteria. However, we do not actually know what difference they will make in terms of school composition because the data that we have do not relate to what the intake will be in 2008, or to the composition at present. There is no reason to suppose that there will be a major difference, although there could be from 2008. Does that answer the point?
<Rebecca Allen:> If I may add one comment to that; we do know something about the social class of people who go to church in England, and that might be a helpful statistic with regard to why advantaged intakes might come about. We know from the British social attitudes survey that churchgoers, particularly in the Church of England, are more likely to be from higher social class groups, and that that figure is more pronounced than for Catholic churches. In a sense it is not surprising that their intakes are advantaged, but that kind of social class gradient in church attendance is relatively slight. It is not enough to explain why the intakes are so much more advantaged. For that we must come back to the idea of what exactly the criterion of religious adherence is, and how it is being decided and administered, and how difficult it is for some families to meet that criterion compared with others.
Q196 <Chairman:> Professor Osler, did I see you nodding?
<Professor Osler:> I would just like to add that in the six localities that we visited as part of the research for the Runnymede Trust-I think in nearly all of them-people we spoke to raised concerns about the need for a statement of support from a religious leader, and about the fact that they felt that some people were finding it easier to get that, and that it was a very subjective measure of who was attending church or who was engaged with the mosque, or whatever. They felt that that was one of the most subjective processes.
Q197 <Mr. Slaughter:> Is there research that can possibly provide an explanation? I will quote some figures that I have quoted before in another context, but which I am encouraged to use again: in one of my local authority areas I have eight schools, of which four are faith schools and four are not; the free school meals figures are 2, 6 and 6% for the three faith schools and 20% for the faith academy, but they are between 41 and 56% for the four community schools. That is an almost tenfold difference. From what you are saying, that is somewhat untypical, but if that can happen in an LEA area-and you say that a standard difference could be as much as 50%-do not we need more analysis of why that happens? Those are all publicly funded schools, and the differences are significant.
<Rebecca Allen:> We do, but we need to know who has applied to which schools.
<Professor West:> We need the data that local authorities have on parental preferences. The Department for Children, Schools and Families will publish some information relating to that, but we do not actually know what the match is, and we do not know what the breakdown is by various background characteristics of the children, either. We tried to get those data a little while ago in relation to London, and we were not able to get access to the data for a range of reasons, probably because it was the first year of the pan-London admissions. There is a lot more that one could do if the data were available.
Q198 <Mr. Slaughter:> Do you think this is an issue that people would rather brush under the carpet because it is too controversial, because the consequences, say, for a family who either are not organised in their religion or do not have a religion, or who live in an area without a religious school of their persuasion, are that they will surely be greatly discriminated against on that basis?
<Professor West:> Yes, there is an issue there: as you say the schools are publicly funded. This is public money, so there ought to be some transparency about who is applying, who is being offered places and what the outcomes are. It is perfectly reasonable to seek that information and for that information to be made available. It is undoubtedly controversial, but it is a balancing act, is it not?
<Professor Halstead:> There is a danger in using statistics; you gave an example from one constituency. The general statistics may give one impression, but there may be wide diversity in particular areas. We must be careful not to lose sight of the fact that some faith schools serve a large majority of children from a lower social class, for example. I have lived in Bradford on and off for 35 years, and I taught for 12 years in an inner-city Catholic school where the typical student population was of a very low social class. There are also Church of England primary schools in Bradford that serve an almost exclusively Muslim population, and Muslim voluntary aided schools that have a much higher level of free school meals than surrounding schools.
To some extent, the question is where the schools are located. If the church or faith schools are located in the suburbs, they will have a higher social class. If they are located in the inner cities, whatever faith they are and whatever admissions policy they have, they will serve a lower social class and have much higher levels of free school meals.
Q199 <Mr. Slaughter:> I do not want to bang on about my own example, but I represent an inner-city constituency, and as I mentioned, three out of the four faith schools there have free school meals levels of 6% and below, down to 2%. That seems anomalous, to say the least. I am not necessarily asking you to comment on that, but where do you think trends are going? You used Muslim schools as an example. If there is a higher proportion of deprivation among the Muslim population, are we likely to see the trend reverse?
Equally, the other trend appears to be that faith schools are becoming more fashionable simply because they are victims of their own success. Manipulation of the system continues, and if such schools are seen as more successful-not educationally, as there does not seem to be much evidence of that, but socially-they will attract even more parents and children from higher social classes. Do you see either of those contradictory trends working through?
<Professor Halstead:> I would like to see them work through, but in practice, how can we manage that? Local authorities such as Ealing, Bradford and others used to bus children about in the 1980s to try to even out the social mix, but no one liked that-neither ethnic minority parents nor white parents, nor anyone-and the system had to be phased out, because it was deemed unjust by all the parties involved even though it was a benign policy designed to even out social class differences. The way to do it in practice is very difficult.
Q200 <Mr. Slaughter:> Does anybody else want to comment on that? Can you see trends in terms of the discrepancies between faith and non-faith schools?
<Rebecca Allen:> We have observed trends in the data, but it would be unwise to attribute them to causal processes. I can describe the trends. They suggest that areas with a large proportion of children in Church schools, but also increasing proportions of children in Church schools, have increasing free school meal segregation in their local authority. That has been true in the research that I have done from 1999 to 2004, but also in the research that others have done right back to the mid-1990s. Those are just associations, and we would want to be very cautious in suggesting why that is taking place. We are not really sure why.
Q201 <Paul Holmes:> Professor Halstead, you said earlier that one must look at the context of what neighbourhood a particular school is in, but surely there is now plenty of academic research on faith schools throughout the whole of England showing repeatedly that in general, the majority of faith schools do not take the percentage of free school meals and special educational needs children that the local statistics indicate they should?
<Professor Halstead:> Perhaps the problem is lumping faith schools together as a group. Different faith schools have different purposes and different intakes. They are different in many ways. Typically, a Catholic school will exist primarily to serve the needs of a Catholic community. Typically, a Church of England school may exist to serve the broader community and to try to bring a Christian ethos to provision for all children. Very often that is the case with Church of England schools. A Muslim school tells a different story again. By lumping them together, we may be in danger of recommending policies that suit one group or provide more social justice in terms of another group, but not dealing with the wide range of needs that are represented by these different schools.
Q202 <Paul Holmes:> None the less, you agree that there is a body of academic evidence that the majority of faith schools across the whole of the country do not take the ratios of children on free school meals and with SEN that their local neighbourhood would indicate?
<Professor Halstead:> Yes, absolutely.
<Rebecca Allen:> I can add something to that, because in our data we do a breakdown by religious denomination, so we can look at Catholic schools separately from Church of England schools and then from all other religious schools. The patterns are pretty much exactly the same across the different denominations, so it is not true that any particular denomination is more responsible than any other for these very advantaged intakes relative to neighbourhoods.
<Professor Halstead:> One issue may be whether the faith school is single sex, for example. A single-sex Catholic school will, because it is single sex, attract a very large number of applications from Muslim parents, whereas a mixed Catholic school may not. Often, the nature of the school determines the parental desires to send their children there.
Q203 <Paul Holmes:> Rebecca Allen and Professor West, you were talking about the problem of getting access to information on who applies to a school and is then rejected. I understand you have tried to do some research whereby you look at, for example, an elite Catholic or an elite Anglican school-that is, one that is very good according to the academic league tables-and you look at the Catholic or Anglican children who live close by but end up having to travel some distance away to another Catholic or Anglican school that is less good according to the academic league tables. The consistent pattern-the common factor-you find is that those pupils who have to travel some distance away to an inferior school that is still a faith school tend to be of lower academic ability and lower income status. Can you explain some of that?
<Rebecca Allen:> This was analysis that we carried out on a set of London schools that we could see had very advantaged intakes relative to their local neighbourhoods. Our thinking was that we did not have any information on who applied, but what we did know from our data was that there was a whole set of pupils in London who we knew were going to Roman Catholic schools, for example, and therefore had met some criteria on religious adherence in order to attend a Roman Catholic school. We looked at those elite schools and at the pupils who lived close to them but were attending other Roman Catholic schools. We looked at the characteristics that those pupils had. Perhaps not surprisingly, they were more likely to be eligible for free school schools and more likely to be of lower ability in terms of Key Stage 2 tests than the pupils who were successful in attending those elite schools.
We looked at some of the admissions criteria that those elite schools were using in order to get those very advantaged intakes relative to other Catholic schools in London. We identified the use of things such as school-administered banding, including the use of uneven bands, the use, at the time, of interviews, supplementary forms-all the usual things in order to determine religious adherence, but which inadvertently mean that the school collects social background information on the families.
Q204 <Paul Holmes:> So the academically good Catholic or Anglican schools you looked at were quite clearly selecting out local Catholic or Anglican children who were not going to do their league table results much good?
<Rebecca Allen:> They appeared to be. We do not know for certain whether the Catholic children who lived close to the elite school applied, but we would think that they did apply, given that we know that they are Catholic and are attending a Catholic school somewhere, so there is a question about why they did not gain a place, given that they appear to be Catholic and live close to the school.
Q205 <Chairman:> Have you got it in for faith schools? Is there an ideological axe you have to grind? Do you start off saying, "We are going to get these faith schools"? Behind the stats and research, is there an axe you have to grind?
<Professor West:> No. When I first started work in this area, my original interest was what was happening post the abolition of the Inner London education authority, when banding was abolished in many local authorities. I was particularly interested in what was happening in some voluntary-aided schools because they were introducing their own banding. I thought, "This is interesting. The schools are not getting the intake that they previously were in terms of having an academic balance." I have looked back at one of the early pieces that I wrote on the subject about a voluntary-aided school that had introduced its own banding. I thought that it was an interesting way to get a balanced intake. My concern has arisen because a significant minority of publicly funded schools, and of those a proportion of voluntary-aided schools, seem to be using practices that enable them to select in certain pupils and select out others, which raises issues of equality of opportunity of access and so on. So, no, I do not have a particular axe to grind.
Q206 <Chairman:> What about you, Rebecca?
<Rebecca Allen:> My interest was in the form of grant-maintained schools. At the start of my research, I was very concerned about the effect that those schools had on neighbouring schools. When you look at the data, you cannot help but notice that voluntary-aided schools have a much more marked effect on neighbouring schools than the former grant-maintained schools. That is why I have gradually changed the area of focus of my research.
Q207 <Chairman:> Do you hope that the research will have the impact of better selection and better value for taxpayers' money? What is the point of your research?
<Rebecca Allen:> There are basic equity questions about who gets to go where, and about whether the process is fair. I think that it is as simple as that. My research also looks at things such as spillover effects, or competition effects, and the effects on the efficiency of local schooling systems. However, that is an entirely separate question. The issue of fairness is enough in itself to justify the research.
<Professor West:> What motivated the research was to see whether there was a way to improve the system and to make it fairer. Evidence suggests that some of the changes have had beneficial effects. For example, certain practices are not permitted. On the basis of Rebecca's analysis, it looks as though there is a clear association between the use of criteria that are potentially selective and school composition. That issue is worth focusing on and addressing. As a result of the work of the Committee, it is now being taken forward.
Q208 <Chairman:> Professor Osler, do you want to come in on that?
<Professor Osler:> In the research that I undertook with the Runnymede Trust, we were concerned about some of the polarised debate around faith schools: faith schools are either good or bad. That is a very simplistic analysis of schooling. We were concerned about how faith schools contributed to community cohesion and good race relations. Are the barriers that they face different from those for other community schools? That was the purpose of looking at faith schools.
<Chairman:> We will be drilling down in that direction. Hold your breath for a moment, Professor Osler.
Q209 <Mr. Chaytor:> May I clarify the issues around the statistics and put a question to Rebecca? I understand the importance of comparing individual faith schools with community schools in the locality, but for national comparisons, is there an agreed set of statistics for faith schools of different kinds in respect of their SEN intake and their intake of children on free school meals? There seems to be some difference between some of the major faiths and the Secretary of State. Do such figures exist? If so, where are they and can we get hold of them?
<Rebecca Allen:> They are published as part of the annual school census, so they are readily available.
Q210 <Mr. Chaytor:> Do you have the key stats in your head?
<Rebecca Allen:> I have for free school meals, but not for SEN.
Q211 <Mr. Chaytor:> What are the statistics for free school meals?
<Rebecca Allen:> In secondary community schools, about 15% of pupils have free school meals. In Roman Catholic schools, the figure is about 13.5%, and in Church of England voluntary-aided schools, it is about 11%. For other religious schools, the figure is lower than that at about 8.5%. That figure includes general Christian schools, with a mixture of Church of England and Catholic pupils, and Jewish schools.
Q212 <Mr. Chaytor:> Picking up on Professor Osler's point about the diversity within the category of faith schools, is there a significant difference between primary and secondary schools?
<Rebecca Allen:> I do not do any research on primary schools.
Q213 <Mr. Chaytor:> So all your research is on secondary schools?
<Rebecca Allen:> Yes.
Q214 <Mr. Chaytor:> May I turn to Professor West? Before the new admissions code was introduced, what admissions practices in faith schools do you feel contributed most strongly to covert selection? What were the methods most frequently deployed to select covertly under the old code?
<Professor West:> There was a range of methods. We were not able to look at those individually because each of them tended to be used in small proportions. We came up with the notion of criteria that were covertly selective or that allowed the potential to be selective. There was a range of such criteria. A lot of them were quite subjective, and some were still in place for 2005 admissions. There were criteria that allowed a degree of subjectivity and some that gave priority to certain groups of children, such as those whose parents attended the school, those whose parents had links to governors, and those with siblings at the school. The criteria could include compassionate factors or recommendations. There is a huge list of such criteria.
Q215 <Mr. Chaytor:> Under the new code, do you feel that all those mechanisms have been squeezed out, or are there still options for subverting the system? That question is in the context of yesterday's statement.
<Professor West:> We are carrying out some research with RISE-the Research and Information on State Education Trust-that is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. As part of that, we are looking at admissions criteria and practices that are in place. That research is ongoing, so we have nothing definitive to say, but it looks as though there is more objectivity overall. It looks like much more notice has been taken of the new code across the board.
In schools that are responsible for their own admissions, which in the main are faith schools, we are still finding practices such as letters being required from the head teacher, pre-admission meetings, forms asking for parental occupations and letters from parents. Some of those things are not banned by the code, but they allow schools that wish to select opportunities to do so. In quite an interesting case, parents were invited to fill out an expression of interest form. They were invited to collect the prospectus, meet the head teacher, provide evidence of baptism and discuss the implications of seeking admission to a Catholic school. Such pre-admission meetings are not banned.
Q216 <Mr. Chaytor:> This is all to do with the parent and not the child?
<Professor West:> Well, it is not even an interview-it is a meeting. One of the issues with the present code is that although it says that certain practices are not allowed, it does not say what practices are permissible. If a school desires a particular type of intake or wants to encourage particular parents, there are ways of trying to get information about their social background.
Q217 <Chairman:> Have not some schools used a different description of what everyone else would describe as an interview?
<Professor West:> You could say that.
Q218 <Chairman:> That was evidence that was given to the Committee.
<Professor West:> That is certainly something that I have said in the past. There is renaming, yes. Interviews per se are not permitted, but meetings-this is a renaming-yes. Or, it seems to be the case; we do not know, because these things take place behind closed doors. We do not know exactly what goes on.
Q219 <Chairman:> There are two shocking points: the question of whether interviews are still being carried out in some schools, and that of asking for money up front. That is quite astounding, is it not?
<Professor West:> We have not come across money being asked for up front in our research.
Q220 <Chairman:> You have not?
<Professor West:> Not yet.
Q221 <Mr. Chaytor:> On the next code, whenever that might be, what would be the two or three most useful things that the Government could do to tighten up the system?
<Professor West:> I have two, and Rebecca has another one. My two are a list of the criteria that may be used in the event of over-subscription, and a body that was not a school taking responsibility for the administration of the admissions process.
<Rebecca Allen:> Specifically, in the case of religious schools, we became particularly concerned during our research about the idea that you apply over-subscription criteria on the basis of religious adherence. Religious adherence is conceptualised as a continuum from meeting lots of criteria to meeting very few, but that necessarily justifies the collection of all kinds of social background data that allow schools to select, should they wish to do so. We are not saying that they do.
Our opinion was that it would be desirable to have a binary indicator of religious adherence so that schools could decide-they should be very clear-what criteria a family must meet. For example, they might want to say that you have to attend church at least two Sundays in a month over two years, or that you have to have a baptism, so that it is explicit to parents how they meet the criteria of religious adherence, and so that religious adherence becomes a binary thing that a family either has or does not have. The idea of a continuum whereby some families can prove that they are more religious than others is undesirable.
<Chairman:> I must move the Committee on to consider community cohesion in faith schools.
Q222 <Mr. Carswell:> It is fair to say that the recognition is growing of a public policy problem to do with a lack of community cohesion, or more accurately, perhaps, the political establishment-the political elite-is waking up to what many people have felt for some time. After the Bradford riots, the state officially began to acknowledge the problem. In what sense can one blame faith schools for a lack of community cohesion? I was struck by evidence we heard last year when a witness from a Jewish school said, "We are very much a faith school but we have been producing good citizens since the 1800s." Given that there is a problem of fragmentation-some might say, caused by the doctrine of multiculturalism-is it fair to blame faith schools? Surely it is the state-sponsored agenda of multiculturalism that is the problem, not the faith schools.
<Professor Osler:> That is a big one. First, I shall say something about the notion of community cohesion and the way in which it seems to be interpreted in different localities. We found that across the country, other than in one or two London boroughs, local people-I am talking about faith leaders, head teachers, teachers and other groups; we had all kinds of people attending our meetings-felt that the Government's community cohesion agenda was some way of making them do whatever they wanted them to do. There was suspicion of that agenda.
We understand the notion of community cohesion as not an outcome, but a kind of process. What goes on in a particular neighbourhood depends on the problems in that neighbourhood. If far-right political parties are engaged in a neighbourhood and are causing difficulties, the kind of community cohesion processes used to solve that problem might be very different than if young people from different faith groups were in conflict. Community cohesion agendas will be different according to different localities.
As far as faith schools and other schools are concerned, when tackling this issue, the first thing to consider is the degree to which they feel that it is their responsibility. The second thing to think about is how it will be monitored from outside. If people in the local community are suspicious about the community cohesion agenda, schools might reflect that, so there might be difficulties in taking that agenda forward. On the other hand, responsibility for monitoring is due to fall to Ofsted, and we have a record of Ofsted not being terribly effective in monitoring how schools perform on race equality and race relations agendas. Ofsted has found it difficult to take that agenda on board, so there are challenges.
There can be similar problems within a set of faith schools and within a set of community schools, depending on the intake. Some faith schools are very homogenous in their intake, as are some community schools, and some community schools and faith schools are very diverse in their intake. You might think that if a faith school is separating particular ethnic groups, it will be more difficult to achieve a community cohesion agenda, and that is true if it is a very homogenous school, but there will be community schools with similar problems. Relatively homogenous community schools in leafy suburbs might also be challenged by the agenda. I do not think that you can say that faith schools have one set of problems and that community schools have another set in terms of the intake of students. Issues regarding the curriculum are slightly different.
Q223 <Chairman:> Professor Halstead, this is your area.
<Professor Halstead:> Yes. Let me say something about the riots in 2001, linked to community cohesion and multicultural education. I live in the Manningham district of Bradford, about 100 yd from where the 2001 riots took place, and I have talked to many of the people who were involved. First, let us get rid of the myth that there was a direct link between faith schools and those riots. I followed carefully the trials of people who were involved, and I have talked to a lot of people. As far as I know, there was not one person from a Muslim faith school, either private or state-funded, involved in the riots. The only people involved were those from community schools.
Let us take a typical story. One person said at his trial, "I drank a bottle of vodka and I didn't really know what I was doing. I started pulling up paving stones and throwing them at the police." Where did he learn to drink a bottle of vodka? Not from his Muslim home, his local community or the mosque. He learned it from his peers at the community school he attended. Perhaps an underlying problem behind the riots and the difficulty with community cohesion is that minority children, particularly Muslim children, are faced with conflicting frameworks of values at home and at school, or in the local community and at school. They are not being given the resources-at least not very often-to deal with those conflicting values and to forge their own identities within the community schools that they attend. So they go through a period of confusion and anxiety-they are pulled this way and that way. The kind of difficulties with community cohesion that we saw on those occasions can arise more broadly.
Q224 <Chairman:> Professor, what percentage of Muslim children in Bradford go to community schools, and what percentage go to faith schools?
<Professor Halstead:> I have not got those statistics, but I can give you roughly the national statistics: about 5 to 6% of Muslim children go to faith schools, most of which are private, but a few are state funded. More than 90% go to community schools. Proportionally, there are more private schools in Bradford than in the rest of the country. I think that there are currently eight Muslim schools in Bradford, so the proportion is significantly higher.
<Chairman:> But still small.
Q225 <Mr. Slaughter:> When you say faith schools, do you mean Muslim schools?
<Professor Halstead:> I meant Muslim schools in that case. Some go to Church of England schools and others go to Catholic schools, although they are competing for places in Catholic schools against other groups. They do not find it easy to get into Catholic schools.
Q226 <Mr. Carswell:> I have one last question. I was interested to hear that we cannot blame faith schools for the lack of social cohesion. I think, Professor Halstead, that you called for education to enhance cross-cultural understanding, and for education on democratic citizenship. What is the reason for this notion of cross-cultural understanding? Surely we should try to ensure that people proclaim allegiance to a common culture, particularly to the notions that separate the role of Church and religion from the state-an idea that is by no means universal. Surely we should try to ensure that people proclaim allegiance to a common culture, not to multiculturalism, which is what has caused the fragmentation.
<Professor Halstead:> We are a multicultural society in the sense that people from different cultures live in our society. To be a multicultural society involves two elements: to be a society means that we must have something shared-some common values and frameworks of being-otherwise we are not a society at all; but to be a multicultural society means that we must recognise diversity within that common framework.
Q227 <Mr. Carswell:> What if that diversity does not recognise the rights of women? What if that fragmentation does not recognise the rights of people to choose whom they marry? You say that we are multicultural as though it is a universally good thing, but surely this cultural relativism has caused big social problems. You talk about it as though it has been a success, but it has not.
<Professor Halstead:> I did not talk as though it was a success, but it is an aspiration. We must balance the common identity and shared values that we hope all our citizens have with the legitimate diversity that exists in a society that has people from different faiths, educational backgrounds, traditions and cultures. How we balance those two factors is a matter for careful judgment and argument.
Q228 <Chairman:> I have just come out of a debate on the European treaty and we were talking about red lines-absolutes-and Douglas asked you about the rights of women. Are they to be accommodated and balanced? In an English educational system, surely that should not be balanced against other things. Do women in England not have certain inalienable rights?
<Professor Halstead:> Yes, of course they do. For example, girls have the right to education. It is a fact that in this country Muslim girls achieve much more highly than Muslim boys, as do girls in every other cultural or religious group. These things are clear from the statistics. But each individual aspect of women's rights may be raised as different issues. Equally, no one would be happy about a girl being sent off at the age of 13 to Pakistan to be married off-if that actually happens; we need to find out whether it happens first, but then we need to condemn it if it does.
Q229 <Mr. Carswell:> I hope that it would be more than just condemning it.
<Professor Halstead:> Yes, we would need to take steps to prevent it from happening. This is part of the shared values that being British involves, but there are other issues. A family might prefer their daughters to attend a local university so they can live at home rather than go to a university at the other side of the country. That may be a matter for family negotiation. Some Muslim girls have told me that they have to smile very sweetly at their parents to get them to think about some issues that do not come easily to them. As they start to reflect on the issues and talk to other people within the local community they realise that some of the requests their daughters make are quite reasonable.
There is a danger of thinking that the Muslim community is very rigid on a lot of these things. From my experience of talking to my students at the University of Huddersfield and to Muslim families, there is an openness on many issues. We need to encourage that openness, not by a rigid attitude but by conversations, discussions and the involvement of groups in decision-making processes. Gradually, a greater awareness of possibilities from us will develop. I teach more Muslim women students at university than men students.
<Mr. Carswell:> It sounds very relativist to me, but I have no further questions.
Q230 <Fiona Mactaggart:> I was interested, Professor Osler, in your sense that schools outside London felt that community cohesion was a burden on them. Why do you think they feel this?
<Professor Osler:> I think that people understood the Government's agenda on community cohesion in different ways. For example, some people felt that it might be an agenda designed somehow to control Muslim communities. In other areas they felt that there were other reasons why this was being imposed upon them. I do not think that they saw it as a process. They saw it as a fixed agenda that they were being told to deliver something on behalf of Government. When we explored with them what they wanted to do with young people, such as getting young people to live together and learn to live with difference and how to address those kinds of issues, there was not necessarily an issue or a difference of opinion. But if they saw it as a Government agenda about which they had no say and which they could not negotiate, then they were concerned.
Q231 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Is this a reflection of a lack of resources in faith schools to address these issues?
<Professor Osler:> It was not just in faith schools. There were teachers who said that it was just an extra burden for which they would get no resources. In schools where they had a less diverse intake, they were well aware that the community cohesion agenda might involve working with other schools in the district and engaging in authority-wide activities and that this would place more demands on staff, perhaps not just in terms of monetary resources but in terms of staff time. There were concerns about that, certainly.
Q232 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Did the teachers feel that they had the curriculum resources to do it, and guidance and things like that?
<Professor Osler:> In terms of the curriculum, it was not just teachers that I was concerned about who were understanding the agenda in slightly different ways. What I found was that in nearly every area faith groups and inter-faith groups saw the issue solely in terms of religious education. They thought that somehow religious education was going to have to be the subject through which this agenda was delivered.
What we noticed was that faith groups were very unaware of the citizenship curriculum, for example, as a means of achieving or working towards this agenda of learning to live together. They saw community cohesion as somehow to do with morals and values, but not necessarily to do with political processes or young people engaging in participation activities. This might be making decisions about what is going on in the local area, or they might have been sports or arts activities. So, faith groups tended to see the whole issue in terms of how the religious education curricula might contribute to this, and they had not really thought about democratic participation, developing young people's skills to deal with issues of difference or values-that this might actually be a skills-based curriculum beyond religious education.
Q233 <Fiona Mactaggart:> But Professor Halstead, does that chime with your experience? I think what I am hearing-I do not want to misquote you, Professor Osler-is that in faith-based institutions the prism of religion is applied to issues that engage citizenship, tolerance and so on in a way that narrows them. I do not want to misquote, but is that something that seems familiar to you, Professor Halstead?
<Professor Halstead:> There is a danger, yes, that if children are taught in isolation, without interaction with other faiths or groups, they could develop narrow attitudes. I do not think that community cohesion is a children's problem really. It is an adult problem.
<Fiona Mactaggart:> Absolutely.
<Professor Halstead:> To illustrate that, I did a lot of research on the Honeyford affair 20 years ago-you will remember that, I think. I went often to visit the school, and I saw the children playing very happily together-Muslim and non-Muslim children interacting perfectly. Outside I saw two groups of protesters, the Asian and the white protesters. They stood completely apart, on opposite sides of the school gate. I saw no speaking or interaction between those two groups at all. The children were fine and naturally took to the cohesion-they integrated activities of play-but the adults had problems. Maybe, in talking about community cohesion, we have to think in terms of how to tackle it at the adult level. The children may fall into place very easily. We can facilitate it, obviously. For example, Feversham College in Bradford has joint activities with St. Joseph's College, the Catholic girls' school. They are both girls' schools. They have set up a programme of joint activities to facilitate inter-group understanding.
My feeling is that the key is values education-moral education. For children to understand, first they must do, then they must reflect on what they do. If the play goes on naturally in the primary school between different ethnic groups, that is fine. Then they must have a chance to reflect on that and learn from that practice, to understand the principles behind it. That is moral or values education. That is something that Muslim schools take seriously, but sometimes it is squeezed out from other schools, particularly from community schools because of other pressures.
Q234 <Fiona Mactaggart:> I have no doubt that very young children are more likely to be tolerant than many adults. What I am concerned about is whether our schools teach tolerance, and whether they do that successfully. Teaching tolerance does not require a watering down of any faith or moral code, but it requires tolerance of others. I would like Professors Halstead and Osler to tell me whether they think that faith schools are any better or any worse than other schools at teaching tolerance.
<Chairman:> May I ask you to be brief as we are short of time?
<Professor Halstead:> Tolerance is sometimes misunderstood. Tolerance does not just mean easy-going, accept anything, do not care about things too much, just take things as they come. That is not tolerance. Tolerance is a conscious decision not to intervene in things that you do not like or approve of. Tolerance implies that you already have a framework of values and that you make a decision not to impose those values on other people, not to intervene in things that go against those values. The starting point for tolerance has to be that you have your own definite framework of values. That is where faith schools are at an advantage, because they make it clear what they stand for, what their basic core values are. That is a good foundation for developing tolerance. I could say a lot more but should give Professor Osler a chance.
<Professor Osler:> There are a number of issues. Teachers need support and appropriate training to address a lot of the issues, and both in their initial training and in ongoing programmes there is certainly not enough. There is a particular difficulty when we focus on issues of faith, because many professionals-not just teachers-feel uncomfortable about handling issues of faith. In community schools, where they do not have a faith context, that is a particular challenge. They may be more comfortable talking about ethnic or cultural diversity than faith diversity. However we tackle this, we need to move beyond the religious education syllabus to enable teachers of different subjects and from different backgrounds to do that. That is one of the problems. Depending on the type of faith school, for example if they are academies or voluntary aided schools, they are not bound by a religious education syllabus that insists on world religions or is agreed by a standing advisory council on religious education, so they can go off at their own tangents. There is a difference between faith schools and that needs looking at. Schools that have complete freedom over their curricula should be thinking about how they are going to address the issue.
<Chairman:> Thank you very much. That has been most illuminating and valuable. All of you, our esteemed academic witnesses, have certainly lived up to your reputations. Please maintain contact with us. If you think that we cut short your answers or that there were things that you wanted to tell the Committee but did not, we will be happy to receive your communications and have a dialogue with you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: The Right Reverend Stephen Venner, The Bishop in Canterbury and Bishop of Dover, The Right Reverend Patrick O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster, and Peter Irvine CBE, Catholic Education Service, gave evidence.
Q235 <Chairman:> I welcome Peter Irvine, Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue and Bishop Stephen Venner to our proceedings. We are very grateful for your presence-you are our esteemed clerical witnesses. We have two apologies. First, we are a bit thin on numbers because there is another education Committee sitting, and some of our members are involved in a very important private Member's Bill. Although this is still an all-party Committee, there are fewer of us than usual. Secondly, the timing is tight because if we do not finish the session on time, no one will get a seat for the Budget.
May I start by asking all my colleagues-David and all of them-to ask pretty tight questions? I want to start with a pretty tight question. I suppose that you would describe me as a Christian-I was the parliamentary church warden of St. Margaret's, our parliamentary church, for seven years-so my questions to any of the Christians present are not motivated by a sense of hostility, but by a desire to know. As a Christian and the Chairman of this Committee, it certainly worries me when I look at statistics that seem to suggest that some faith schools-certainly some Christian faith schools-seem to be so adept at keeping out poor children and children with particular special educational needs.
I was looking at a news story in the Financial Times this morning and I saw that Winchester school was set up in 1382 "to educate 70 poor scholars", although the article says that "it is more commonly attended now by the sons of City bankers and lawyers." I just throw that in. Does it not worry you as senior figures in the Christian religions that the sort of evidence that the Committee gets suggests that your schools are very good at excluding poor and less fortunate children?
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> Do you want me to have a go at that? You are well aware of the history. The Church in England was based on education from very early times and had a deliberate policy from very early times of including as many bright children of poor families as it could. The two ways to succeed if you were bright and did not come from a noble family were the armed forces and the Church. In the 19th century, with the advent of the national society, 17,000 schools were built in the poorest parts of the country.
That is the tradition. Since then, from the Church of England's point of view, there have been two directions, which, until very recently, were very different. The first was the independent sector, where there is undoubtedly, in one sense, huge privilege. On the other side, there is the maintained sector, where there has been a deliberate policy of maintaining schools in some of the smallest rural communities and some of the poorest communities around.
Interestingly, Winchester was in the paper today-you only quoted one part of the bit about Winchester-because it is sharing in the development of an academy. From my experience in Kent, I know that one of the first schools to do that was the King's School. During a conversation, the sponsor of the academy in one of the poorest parts of Folkestone and the head of the King's School realised that they had a huge amount in common, because if you took away the wealth factor, the children suffered from very similar deprivations. They were able to talk to each other and they have done a lot of creative work both ways in building a community. So yes, what you said does trouble me, but I am glad that there are now real ways in which that difference is being addressed.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> If that is true, I would be very worried about it. I have been working in Lancaster for the past seven or eight years, and there are 84 Catholic schools there-71 primary and 13 others. Overall, the number of students in Catholic schools who are not Catholic, but of other Christian Churches or Muslim, is 30%. However, in most schools in Preston, it is 50%. In four or five schools in Preston, 80% are not Catholic. It is remarkable. I have just returned from a longish tour of schools in India and found that, in many Catholic schools, 95 to 98% of students were Muslim or Hindu. We will have to be careful how we throw around statistics, given that they differ from area to area.
<Peter Irvine:> May I first of all plead not guilty to being a cleric?
<Chairman:> I am sorry about that. I should have noticed the tie.
<Peter Irvine:> I am here at the invitation of Archbishop Vincent Nichols who is unable to be here because of the death of one of his fellow bishops, the funeral and the associated rubrics going on yesterday and today. He sends his apologies.
My brief is specific. I shall talk about the issue that has just been raised. I speak from a background as a member of Her Majesty's Inspectorate for 23 years, and an assessor for specialist schools and academies. I am still inspector of initial teacher training for Ofsted and undertake various European assessor projects. I have explained my background to make the point that I have inspected well over 1,000 schools in the course of the past 25 years, the great majority of which were not Catholic schools, although I am here to talk about Catholic schools.
I draw the Committee's attention to the summary of the Ofsted reports on Catholic schools during 2003 to 2005, when 500 primary schools and just over 100 secondary schools were inspected. I am not about to go into detail, but it does not entirely bear out the substance of your initial question. It seems to show, in the sample to which reference has been made, that for free school meals, special needs and ethnicity, the schools that we are talking about closely paralleled the national cohort. There were some differences, such as slightly fewer special needs in primary schools, while there were slightly more special needs in secondary schools. There were rather more ethnic minorities in Catholic schools than in community schools generally. There were sometimes rather different ethnic minorities. The figure today would be greater still with the immigration from eastern Europe. However, the figures only go up to 2005.
To make reference to an earlier contribution, it does not seem very surprising to me that we have fewer Catholic schools with high proportions of free school meals. We also have fewer with low proportions of free school meals. It works at both ends. That is what we would expect of schools that have much bigger catchment areas generally than community schools. I repeat that the evidence is based on both primary and secondary schools, but I shall talk about secondary schools for the moment. In an inner-city Catholic secondary school, it would be absolutely normal that some pupils would be coming from other areas than the inner city to that school. That is the nature of the catchment areas. Conversely, a Catholic school in the leafy suburbs would have its tranche of pupils coming in from a sector such as the city centre, so that Catholic school would have rather more free school meal pupils than the community schools in the area.
I agree with previous speakers. I would deplore it if Catholic schools discriminated in any way against poorer pupils and those who were in any way disadvantaged. It would be a terrible thing, but I am not convinced that there is evidence for that nationally, although the local evidence that we heard quoted earlier would disturb me. I should like to look at it more closely.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> I just wanted to come back on your opening question, Chairman. I do not know that there is evidence that schools seek to exclude pupils. It was quite an emotive question. I think that the real challenge for oversubscribed schools is how fairly and appropriately-there is a proper debate about that-to allow in the maximum number that they are allowed. I do not see any policies for excluding people, and I do not think that that is any part of what we do.
Q236 <Chairman:> I did not say that they do, but that it seems disturbing if that is the end result, by whatever means. It might be an unintended consequence of some kind of human action, which is different.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> But by definition, if you are oversubscribed, people will feel excluded.
<Chairman:> We will drill down on those points.
Q237 <Fiona Mactaggart:> I am interested in how you communicate the things that you want schools to do. The Department for Children, Schools and Families sends out circulars and so on, but I am interested in how you provide leadership for your schools with regard to the curriculum. How do you do it and what have you done it on?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> Presumably, I am here in a different role from that of some of the other witnesses. I am here because of a document that is precisely about how we communicate, and I felt that it was very important as a diocese for us to communicate clearly my expectations of a Catholic school in my diocese, which is Lancaster. I wrote this document, "Fit for Mission? Schools", and circulated it to all the teachers, staff, governors and parents. In some cases it did not reach parents, so the communication broke down in a few places. In it, I tried to set out very clearly our attitude, approach and expectations, setting out clearly the things that I would like to see, sometimes where I did not see them happening.
For instance, in extra-curricular activities, religion and religious education were being marginalised and pushed just into the RE department. I would see cohesion spreading into the sciences, the classics and history and all through the school. There would be an emphasis, so that the scientist or the classicist would take up some of the issues. On occasions, I find that rather narrow in approach. It is, as it were, the school saying, "Well, we have this bit of time for RE," so it is marginalised, and I think that there are real dangers there.
Q238 <Fiona Mactaggart:> I have read your document and find some things surprising, such as the suggestion that schools should ban Red Nose Day and works that contain polemic against religion in general from school and college libraries. That means no Marx or Camus and many books that I think a sixth-former ought to read, even if critically. I think that that is odd.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> May I throw the issue of polemic back to you? Suppose you went into a school and found in the library material that said that the Holocaust never took place-and there are such books-what would you do?
Q239 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Do you refer to books of fiction, as well as non-fiction?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> Yes.
Q240 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Certainly, I would not expect a school to promulgate material that is lies, but I also think that children should encounter great work even if they need to be given the tools to criticise it. Your advice does not suggest that, but would you advise that such work should be excluded from children's experience?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> No, I would not. I would have to look at the material that was being provided, as would others, and ask whether it was legitimate.
On your initial question about Red Nose Day and Amnesty International, I have been a member of Amnesty, not all my life but for many years, and I have supported its work in a big way. The problem is not with Amnesty's work, but as a Catholic bishop I am very concerned that its executive has recently taken a decision on abortion that of course I would not agree with at all. I do not object to 99% of Amnesty's work, but I do object to the fact that it should take up a position that is totally alien to me.
Q241 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Do Catholic schools in your diocese participate in Red Nose Day?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> Yes, they have done, and also in Amnesty.
Q242 <Fiona Mactaggart:> I am more interested in the official mechanisms. I understand that, as a regional bishop, you have used your position to influence the curriculum in the schools in your area, but I think that Peter can probably help on this question. What subjects have you given guidance to schools about?
<Peter Irvine:> The most recent guidance that will be of interest to you, I guess, is on Catholic schools and community cohesion. It is an attempt to respond to the Government's stated policy and it points out, among other things, that the section 48 inspections of the religious life of the school that are carried out generally at the same time as Ofsted inspections have had community cohesion as a focus for some time. It is not new, so I hope that from September, when Ofsted start inspecting that and including it in reports, that Catholic schools will not be taken by surprise. On the contrary, they ought to be ahead of the game. That is fairly typical of our guidance documents.
As a national body, the Catholic Education Service has a broad national perspective and cannot be involved in the day-to-day promulgation of curriculum policy around the country in individual schools. That is a typical document and we could replicate it in several areas. It looks, for example, at ways that schools might tackle globalisation and sustainability.
Notably, what tends to be left out of community cohesion is the problem of old age, and older people. As someone feeling an increasing sympathy for the age group involved, I note that it is striking in our society that old people are generally very neglected. A sobering figure is that last week 10% of 75-year-olds did not speak to a single person. That is a staggering figure, and it is an area in which schools could have an enormous role to play. Many Catholic schools do so, as do many community schools. We have to be careful not to claim that a concern for the community is unique to Catholic, Anglican or other Church schools. That is far from being the case.
I could point you to numerous cases, many of which are cited here, of Catholic schools that play a full part in their local communities. The evidence in the Ofsted inspection document that I quoted from earlier would take you down the same path. Looking at the extent to which pupils are encouraged to play a part in their school and local communities, the Ofsted judgments are strikingly positive.
<Fiona Mactaggart:> I can tell that the Chair is trying to speed me up, so I will ask you to speed up.
<Chairman:> I was looking at Peter. I thought that I might have trouble with keeping some of his answers brief.
Q243 <Fiona Mactaggart:> When you are preparing this kind of guidance for schools, have you found areas of difficulty between Catholic teaching and the national curriculum? How do you address those?
<Peter Irvine:> I am thinking about that and I cannot easily summon examples. Catholic schools in various parts of the country are very involved in children's centres, for example. Hartlepool is a striking case, where a number of Catholic primary schools act as the base for the children's centres in local areas. That has not given rise to difficulties. Liaison with local services has not been problematic. I cannot think of examples; I do not know if there have been any in the past.
I am reminded by a colleague to draw your attention to dioceses. We work largely through dioceses and there is a network of 22 diocesan education offices around the country, as you will know. Our work is largely with the diocesan school commissioners. We have alerted them, for example, on governors' guidance on trafficked children. A letter went out to all the commissioners this week to alert them to the Government guidance and the necessity for them to be aware of it in their dealings with schools.
Q244 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Bishop Venner, can you tell us about the Church of England?
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> The way in which we are ordered is very similar to the Roman Catholic Church. We have a national board of education, of which I am the acting chair because the Bishop of Portsmouth has been ill with cancer for a couple of years. Our small central group keeps in very close contact with diocesan teams. Some of the advice comes nationally-by diktat, as it were-but it actually just explains how national legislation will be rolled out: admissions criteria are a case in point. On the whole, it comes from discussions among the diocesan directors-all 44 of them-and they cover all the things that you would expect. One of the main things is leadership, which is more and more critical to how schools develop.
I have jotted down a few things-admissions, which we have been talking about; the development of RE, including how we explore other faith beliefs and people who hold no faith beliefs, and worship. What do we mean by the ethos of a school? That is a slippery concept that covers so much of what we have been talking about. How do we encourage links with initial teacher training establishments, some of which are Church universities, in order to encourage both teachers to teach within Church schools and Christians to teach as Christians within community schools?
Then there are all the broad questions about social cohesion. You know our own history. We have concentrated very much on secondary schools today, but primary schools in particular are at the very heart of many of their communities. Their relationship not just with the Church community but with the wider community is vibrant and it supports and encourages children and the community. It is a two-way relationship. Those are the sorts of things that are going on, and there are lots of others.
Q245 <Fiona Mactaggart:> You have given guidance on admissions policy. What did you think about what you heard about it earlier? I could see you sitting there.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> Yesterday?
<Fiona Mactaggart:> Also during the earlier session. I think that you were sitting in the room then.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> Yes, I was. What we heard yesterday was interesting. Our response, and my response in public yesterday, was not the slightest bit defensive. If and when what was after all a very small exercise on paper is translated into reality, and if there are instances of Church of England schools falling short of the ideals that we have set them, we will want to know about that at diocesan level.
That has already happened. Some of the research is out of date, and we know some of the stories already. We have only picked up one or two in the past 24 hours, but take for example the question of moneys, which you raised earlier, Chairman. The one story that we heard about a school asking for a donation actually involved a primary school that was undersubscribed, so asking for money towards a governors' fund for the life of the school had absolutely nothing to do with admissions. It had to do with the life of the school, and such things need to be unpacked.
My reaction, particularly to the two experts on this side, is that most of the research that they were talking about has been around for a long time. It was all secondary-and is something that needs to be repeated over and over again-and an awful lot of it was London based. I think that the evidence from this side of the table is that if you rolled that out, particularly into the north-west-I was the bishop responsible for Oldham, Rochdale and Tameside before I moved to Kent-you would see a very different picture.
Q246 <Fiona Mactaggart:> Bishop Venner, I love your focus on primary schools-that is one of the things that I normally do-but primary schools generally admit from everywhere in their neighbourhood. That is quite normal, and it is one of the strengths of our primary education. The tussles over pseudo forms of selection happen at 11. It is something that we, as politicians, and you, as people responsible for schools, need to address. You are right that this evidence comes from before the admissions code and let us hope that the code will make a difference. However, some of yesterday's report suggested that it has not made as much difference as the Government had hoped. If that evidence turns out to be right, what are you going to do?
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> Yesterday we said that we were very happy to work with the Government to see what we could do together. It is a matter of partnership. You asked about things happening. There is a piece of research-we will ensure that you get to see it-dated 2005 that says that some of the research that the two experts on this side spoke about, such as regarding percentages of underprivileged children with social depravation, is probably true, although it covers the voluntary-controlled sector as well the voluntary-aided sector. There is clear evidence that between 2001 and 2005 there was a significant change in the percentage of children with particular needs of different sorts being admitted to our schools. We are improving the situation. There is statistical evidence to show that that percentage is growing and we will do all that we can to encourage that.
May I go back to the primary school issue, although I know that you want to concentrate on the secondary schools? In some senses, we can say that the primary school situation is okay, but for our Church primary schools there is the real challenge, which is then rolled out into secondary schools, of how we can do what Lord Dearing challenged us as the Church of England to do in 2000: to be on the one hand inclusive, but on the other hand clearly distinctive. Keeping those two factors together is the challenge that will be ongoing and that will change as society changes.
Q247 <Paul Holmes:> I return to the question of statistics. At the start of the debate, both Peter and Patrick talked about the truth of the statistics, and Peter talked about Ofsted showing that Catholic schools were taking people roughly in line with national cohorts of free school meals and SEN. However, the whole point of the academic evidence that we heard in the first session, and all the other reports that I read over the last year, is that if you look at schools in the context of their local community, not national averages, faith schools tend not to take the proportions of children with free school meals and SEN that they should be doing to be representative of their local communities. Are you saying that all that academic research is wrong?
<Peter Irvine:> I certainly received some of the evidence that we heard this morning with qualification. It was made clear by the speaker that a lot of the evidence was London based-
Q248 <Paul Holmes:> Can we stop there? I wrote on the front of my notes, as this was said, that Rebecca Allen mentioned earlier that the most disproportionate differences in intake were to be seen in London and the north-west. We have just heard people saying that the north-west is much better. Actually, it is as bad as London.
<Peter Irvine:> To be honest, I would need to look harder at that disparity. Our evidence is from Ofsted. It is not partisan and it uses balanced samples, both primary and secondary. It shows that, across the country, the percentages on free school meals are, I think, 15% in Catholic secondary schools, whereas the national average figure is 16%. There are rather more special needs children in Catholic secondary schools than in community secondary schools, and quite significantly more ethnic minority children in Catholic schools.
Q249 <Paul Holmes:> Can I stop you there again, as that was specifically dealt with by the people who gave evidence in the first session? They said that if you look at the national figures, faith schools, which tend to be in urban areas, usually have higher percentages for free school meals and special educational needs than the national figures. However, if you look at the neighbourhood that those schools are in, the numbers are lower than for the rest of that neighbourhood. They are higher than the national averages, but lower than for the actual neighbourhoods that they serve.
<Peter Irvine:> That will be true for some, but you did not let me finish.
Q250 <Paul Holmes:> No, those are the figures across the whole of England and across all faith schools, not just this one here or that one there.
<Peter Irvine:> But the natural consequence of that is that there must be many faith schools for which the reverse is true, because otherwise the national averages could not be the same. Correct me if I am wrong.
Q251 <Paul Holmes:> Go back to the research of Allen and West, for example. It is about London in particular, which, after all, has 20% of the nation's population, so you can hardly say that it does not matter. The faith schools in London educate only 85% of the number of pupils eligible for free school meals that they would if they educated the pupils in their neighbourhood. The figures are for all faith schools, across the board, across London. Three quarters of them have free school meal levels below the London average, and many actually have almost no free school meal pupils. So, many of all the faith schools in London, which has one fifth of the country's population, take almost no free school meal pupils at all. Some will have very high ratios, but it is clear that the majority are massively discriminating in some way against children from poor backgrounds.
<Peter Irvine:> I am not sure that you have proved that it is the majority.
Q252 <Paul Holmes:> The statistics say that it is. Are you saying that all the research is wrong?
<Peter Irvine:> Can you tell me from which research you are quoting? Is it for 2007 to 2008?
Q253 <Paul Holmes:> It is Allen and West.
<Peter Irvine:> We have not had the advantage of seeing it in detail. We find it quite hard to comment on the detail without the figures.
Q254 <Paul Holmes:> There was also research last month-I think that it was from a London university-that looked at the whole of England. It came out with figures on faith schools, and the newspaper reported that religious leaders said, "We don't accept it." You cannot just not accept it.
<Peter Irvine:> No, I agree.
Q255 <Paul Holmes:> One piece of research after another shows the same thing all over the country.
<Peter Irvine:> I would like to see the disaggregated figures-they have not been disaggregated. The same is true of the research of the National Foundation for Education Research that was published last year, which was for voluntary schools in total. The figures were not disaggregated. We pursued that with the NFER and tried to get disaggregated figures, which were not available, or perhaps could not be made available. Perhaps that is an area that we ought to look at closely.
One would expect secondary schools with large catchment areas to go through a sort of regression towards a mean. It is very clear from Ofsted's evidence-nationally, as well as in London-that there will be fewer Catholic schools with a high number for free school meals, but there will also be fewer with a low number because of the broader catchment area.
Q256 <Paul Holmes:> So when national figures are for all faith schools, you say that they need disaggregating, otherwise we cannot trust them-
<Peter Irvine:> No.
<Chairman:> One at a time, please.
Q257 <Paul Holmes:> Andy Slaughter gave an example from his area of Hammersmith and Fulham borough of a gross distortion between faith schools and local state schools. Somebody wrote to challenge me with the wonderful performance of some faith schools in Southwark, so I looked at some figures. I got my researcher to disaggregate the figures for the faith schools and the state schools that were mentioned. Again, the difference between the proportions of children with free school meals and special educational needs that the high-flying academic faith schools such as Sacred Heart were taking and the proportions that the local state schools at the bottom end were taking was an absolute disgrace. When the figures are disaggregated, you say, "Oh, that is not typical," and when they are aggregated, you say that we have to disaggregate them before we can evaluate them.
<Peter Irvine:> No, I am saying that if you can show me examples of clear discrimination involving poor children entering Catholic schools, I would find them deplorable and agree absolutely that action should be taken. You have had the chance, I am sure, to read our statement yesterday in response to the admissions code document. We will not defend the indefensible. If Catholic schools are not abiding by the admissions code, that is highly reprehensible and should be dealt with. As Bishop Venner said, you sometimes have to look at individual cases pretty closely in order to be sure that you are actually tackling the right problem, but, if that were the case, we would deplore it. However, I repeat that in national terms there seems to be no doubt that for measures such as free school meals, special needs and ethnicity, all of which are used for good-or, sometimes, for ill-as proxies of disadvantage, Catholic schools are absolutely typical of community schools.
Q258 <Paul Holmes:> That is not what the evidence that we received in the first half of the session said. It said that, on a national level, the general picture across faith schools of all kinds, not just Catholic-we heard specifically that it does not matter whether the school is Catholic, Anglican or any other-is that they are not taking the percentages of local children with free school meals and SEN that the local percentages indicate they should be taking. You cannot just sit there and say that it is clear that nationally this is the picture when all the evidence says otherwise.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I suppose, Paul, that we would have to look very closely at that research and all the other research that has been done. For me, it supports the principle in respect of partnership that Stephen was speaking about a while ago: the faith schools in partnership with the state. We should look at evidence closely and if there are things going wrong, we can do something, working closely together. Otherwise, we would spend our whole morning arguing about an important point. We have seen the evidence and the research.
Q259 <Paul Holmes:> In that welcome co-operative spirit, we heard from some of the academic researchers earlier that they cannot get hold of the figures in respect of who applies to faith schools, and who gets turned down and who gets accepted. Will you encourage those figures to be released by the Church of England and the Catholic Church so that academic researchers can analyse what is actually going on?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I certainly think that they must be open and that there must be transparency in all of this.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> The simple answer to that question is yes. We would all be very interested to find out how it worked out and the facts, as long as people's individual privacy was retained.
I want to make a couple of points, if I may, in response to Paul. The first interesting statistic is that, focusing on London-you cannot take London out of the situation-we see that 49% of voluntary-aided schools in London are not faith schools. That is quite a significant group and we need to bear that in mind when looking at the London statistics.
I mentioned to Fiona the statistics on movement, which are in Rebecca and Anne's paper on page 2. Those statistics say that in voluntary-aided schools between 2001 and 2005, the increases in the percentages of schools giving priority to children were as follows: priority to children in care went from 0% to 74%; priority for those with medical and social needs increased from 42% to 54%; and priority for those with special educational needs increased from 18% to 26%. So, we are moving in the right direction. All the help that we can get to improve that would be useful.
In the advice that we have sent to dioceses about admissions, we are saying, first, that all new Church of England schools will have a minimum of 25% of children admitted on no faith criteria at all. But we are actually encouraging our schools to look to create different sections within the admissions policy so that we will ensure that there is a proper percentage of people from disadvantaged backgrounds, a percentage of people with other faiths or no faith, as well as a significant percentage of people with Christian faith, to try to provide the sort of community in which children can flourish.
Of course, you will always come up against the problem of social engineering. It is going on, sometimes despite us, and sometimes as a deliberate policy by Government and faith communities to avoid certain situations. For example, in a school in an area that is 100% Muslim, you are likely to find that every child in that school is 100% Muslim. Do we accept that or work with it, or do we do something about the take-up of places? That is a real question for the whole of our society.
Q260 <Paul Holmes:> On a different line, I should like to go back to Fiona's point starting by asking Patrick about his pamphlet, "Fit for Mission? Schools". In all the years that I was a history teacher and head of year, I regarded it as my job, as a teacher, to encourage children to think critically and to evaluate. But you are saying in your book that Catholic schools should remove all sorts of literature from the school library because it does not fit with, or because it attacks, a Catholic viewpoint. You gave the specific example of the Holocaust. When I taught GCSE history, for example, the textbooks I used had extracts from Holocaust deniers, alongside other academic research, that could be presented to children while saying, "This is what most researchers think; this is what the British National Party says," or whatever. Are you saying that you should not allow that material in school at all?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> No, I would not say that.
Q261 <Paul Holmes:> But you did a few minutes ago.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> If I did, I did not mean it in that way. What I am saying is that I think there has to be a vetting of material, given the age range in schools, from the youngest-four or five years of age-right through. There is certain material you do not put in front of them. If it is very polemic and downright attacking the Church viciously, I think that there are difficulties.
This is probably related to your question, too. I was hoping to raise what I see as fundamental to all the questions that have been asked. Every school has a philosophy, and the philosophy which puts God at the centre and morality as objective is no less powerful than that which says God is irrelevant and morality is up to the individual. From our point of view, the role of democracy is to embrace all views and not to infringe basic human rights, but there is an impression coming across in certain circles. In some areas of politics, the media and elsewhere, some people seem to think that the only true democratic stance is the latter-namely, that God is irrelevant and that morality is up to the individual. There is a huge question for all of us in that area, but that is the impression coming across to very many Christians.
Q262 <Paul Holmes:> On that specific point, I taught in three different state schools. None of them was a faith school; none of them ever taught that God was irrelevant. However, you say in your publication "Fit for Mission? Schools" that the point of Catholic schools is to develop and deepen their Catholic ethos, that the primacy of purpose is to help everyone in the school to grow in faith and that there should be no false compartmentalisation between religious education and evangelism. In other words, the whole point of a Catholic school is to encourage people in the Catholic faith, so in relation to all the figures you gave us earlier about Catholic schools taking in Hindus, Muslims, Anglicans and presumably even atheists, the whole point would be to get all of them to become Catholics.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> You are suggesting proselytisation, then? You are suggesting that all-
Q263 <Paul Holmes:> You say there should be no distinction between proselytisation and religious education. You are saying it is the same thing. In your pamphlet, that is what you say.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> No, I would not agree that that is what I have said. I say that proselytisation is coercion and we would have nothing to do with coercion-forcing others into our beliefs. We are talking about a Catholic school. The parents of people coming in have chosen it and we present the Catholic faith. It is to be evaluated, but there is no coercion. They are presented with the Catholic faith, but we are very concerned about the person who is not Catholic, about not invading or intruding on their consciences, so there is a very-
Q264 <Paul Holmes:> Except on page 25 of your book you say there should be no false compartmentalisation between religious education and evangelisation, so anybody who attends a Catholic school paid for by taxpayers' money should be evangelised into the Catholic faith.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> No, no. They should be evangelised not into the Catholic faith-evangelised on faith. They then have freedom and they must always have freedom, because our schools are certainly not opportunities for proselytising. As you know, one of the difficulties in Catholic schools is that so many of our students are no longer active Catholics. There are very big questions here.
Q265 <Paul Holmes:> I have made the point, but you say that you should be challenging what children believe all the time and in a Catholic school the whole point is to develop the Catholic ethos and identity and to evangelise.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> And to evangelise-help them in their evaluation of what faith means and their own faith, of course, if they are not Catholics and are from other faith groups. Every Catholic school, for instance, in my area now has a week on Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu matters-one week on those issues.
<Chairman:> Bishop Stephen wants to come in on this.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> From an Anglican perspective, what is fundamental to the distinctive Anglican school or distinctive Christian school is that, in all that we do, we acknowledge that there is a spiritual dimension to life that must be taken seriously, whatever answers you take. It is a counter to the utilitarian view that many people have now of existence and of life, and indeed of education-that educating is simply about people for work. Although we are not being exclusive, we would expect that, in our Church of England schools, pupils went out knowing that there is that religious dimension, that there is a set of religious questions that need to be taken seriously on which people will reach very different conclusions, which must be honoured; but then we have the task of learning to live together. You can do that only in a situation where those issues are taken seriously, right across the curriculum and not only in worship and RE.
<Chairman:> We are running out of time and there are some important questions that we want to ask.
Q266 <Mr. Carswell:> You have been subjected to some pretty full-on questioning, some of which has had a secular tone. Would you be subjected to questioning about the values that you impart to your pupils if you ran a Muslim school? <Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I am not sure.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> Just to answer it a little bit. Having talked with a number of Muslim colleagues, I think that their real concern is that in today's climate, people want to be so careful not to over-challenge or offend that they are actually being made different and distinctive, which they do not want to be. In the educational sphere, I would want to say publicly-I know that Jan, my colleague behind me, and Peter would agree-that relationships between Muslim faith leaders and Christians in the field of education are not only warm; they work together in a very close partnership indeed. That is part of the contribution that we have to make to social cohesion.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I certainly agree with that, but I would go a bit further. Many of our schools, particularly in the Preston area, have a huge percentage of Muslims, who are clamouring to get in. Sometimes, people do not acknowledge what we have in common-in theology, for instance, where Mary is concerned. They are delighted that Mary in the Catholic school is given prominence because she also has a big role in the Muslim religion. There is a real link, as Peter was saying, and not only on the educational side but on the whole faith side. At times, we do not accept that.
Q267 <Chairman:> A couple of questions must be answered. One of the reasons you were invited was to answer some of these questions.
Peter, one of the things that disturbed some Committee members was what seemed to be a certain tendency. The Committee, in its previous guise, went to St. Francis of Assisi Academy in Liverpool, and we were very enthused by this Anglican and Catholic co-operation in the academy. What would you read into Bishop Patrick's view in his publication? It seemed that he would set his face against that sort of co-operation, and certainly the Bishop of Leeds has made it known that that sort of co-operation across faiths-Anglican and Catholic-was not to be pursued any more. That example of the academy would not be repeated anywhere else-or is it just that Bishop Patrick's view and the Bishop of Leeds's view is their view, but not the view of Catholic educationalists more broadly?
<Peter Irvine:> The broad national view is that we are supportive of joint schools. You will know well that there are a number of joint schools-running into the teens, anyway-across the country that operate according to certain criteria. The criteria depend on the wish of the various local communities as well as the feasibility. Likewise, there will be financial questions. Local circumstances will determine outcomes. Nationally, the Catholic community supports such schools if they meet local needs.
Q268 <Chairman:> Can we get this on the record, Peter? With the new occupant in the Vatican, there has been no change in the possible co-operation of joint faith schools?
<Peter Irvine:> That is my understanding. I am reminded by a colleague that there is a new Church of England and Catholic academy opening in Gloucester in 2009.
<Chairman:> We know about that one.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> That would be my understanding as well.
Q269 <Chairman:> So, would you support a joint initiative in your own Lancaster diocese?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> Of course, if certain criteria are met and if parents and others went along that line.
Q270 <Chairman:> So, you see no difficulties? Have you visited the Liverpool school?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I have not, no.
Q271 <Chairman:> It is quite close to your diocese.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I have visited lots of schools, but I have not been there as yet.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> For the record, I am told that there is a second joint academy in the planning phase in Liverpool, so things are going ahead there. We are also sad because the talks on a joint religious academy in Oldham between Anglicans and Muslims will not emerge as a faith school as such. However, we are clear that conversations are going on. It would be an exciting development if that school had both Christian and Muslim sponsors. I understand that discussions are going on. [Interruption.] Oh, they are not. I thought that the discussions were still going on.
Q272 <Chairman:> We are talking about state education that is funded by the taxpayer. Is there, unequivocally, a real potential for further co-operation in joint faith ventures across England, or has there been a change, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, on that matter?
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> For me, there has not been a change. I am quite clear that if our Catholic schools are to survive, identity, sustainability and mission are imperative, otherwise I do not see any survival of the Catholic contribution-after 1,500 years of Catholic education in this country and after what we have put into it and continue to put into it. There are 800,000 Catholic parents across the country who vote with their feet for these schools. The Government accept such schools as can be seen with the various Acts of Parliament and the European situation. We pay our taxes. Not only do our people pay their tax, but the Catholic church has to find 10% of the capital for buildings. So, we are taxed twice for our schools. There is a third tax as well. Our parents contribute so much to the internal workings of the school throughout the year.
Q273 <Mr. Chaytor:> Does the Catholic Education Service think that the prime purpose of any faith school is achievement of high standards and high value added, or inculcation of the faith?
<Peter Irvine:> It is all those. It is education of the whole person-the whole person defined within a Christian context. This is a problem that we have, which perhaps you are alluding to. I was involved in the document about performance of Catholic schools, which sets out to show that Catholic schools attain highly academically or in test and examination terms, but in some ways, that is not the central issue. One part of being human is to have a mind, a body and emotions and to develop them, but it is also to be a spiritual being, so Catholic schools ought to be, and very many of them are, highly successful in those terms, too-in spiritual and moral development. The outcomes of Ofsted inspections are positive in that respect.
Q274 <Mr. Chaytor:> There is a difference between spiritual and moral development and inculcation in a particular faith. That is the issue that you are trying to blur and I am trying to tease out.
<Chairman:> Peter, are you blurring?
<Peter Irvine:> I do not think so. We are talking about schools that Catholic parents have chosen to send their children to. They are exerting their freedoms under the Education Act 1944 and the European Human Rights Act 1998 to have their children educated according to their religious beliefs. However, I go into a lot of Catholic schools-perhaps some of you do, too-and they are not places where indoctrination is happening. Yes, children will learn about doctrine, but they will also learn to question. It would be interesting for you to go to RE lessons in Catholic schools, because they are very vigorous debating groups. Catholic teenagers are like teenagers anywhere: they do not accept what the person at the front says just because they say it.
Q275 <Mr. Chaytor:> May I pursue the question of the inclusive and exclusive approach to admissions? Bishop Patrick, in your opening statement, you pointed out quite rightly that very many Catholic schools have very few Catholic children, and will take children from many different faiths or none, and children with many different languages. But how do you reconcile your defence of Catholic schools being so multicultural with the fact that the Catholic Church fought tooth and nail against the former Secretary of State's suggestion that you might consider a quota of children not of the faith? May I move on after to Bishop Stephen? The issue that I want to explore is the difference between the Catholic Church and the Church of England on the question of quotas applied to existing schools, not just to new schools.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> You have raised so many questions there. Where to start?
<Chairman:> Fought tooth and nail-start with that one.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> And continue to do so for the Catholic school with an identity. There is a confusion between having a Catholic school, open to all-all religions and none-but not indoctrination. If I get it correctly, there is a feeling among some of the Committee-I come across it regularly-that the Catholic school is indoctrination, but I have never seen that. There is a great recognition of the consciences of people other than of the Catholic faith.
Q276 <Mr. Chaytor:> I do not make any accusations about indoctrination; that does not concern me at all. What concerns me is inclusivity and how you reconcile your strong advocacy of the virtue of a multicultural intake in many of your schools with the Church's absolute resistance to considering broadening the intake in a smaller number of some of your more prestigious schools. How do you reconcile those two positions?
<Peter Irvine:> If there were an endless number of Catholic schools, there would be no issue, but the fact is that there are not, and in very many places, there are more Catholics than there are school places for them. For that reason, to hand the admissions authority to other bodies-whoever-was, and still is, seen as a mistake, a wrong thing to do, because it would endanger the continuation of those Catholic schools.
Q277 <Mr. Chaytor:> There is an issue about who administers the admissions procedure according to the admission authority's criteria, but Catholic children can travel 15 miles to Catholic schools and get free travel. How do you defend recruiting children from such a long distance, when there are children on the doorstep of your schools who are non-Catholic and cannot get admission to what are very good schools? How do you reconcile with your Christian faith turning away non-Catholic children from poor families on the doorstep of Catholic schools? That is what interests me.
<Rt Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue:> I am not trying to justify it. I should like to find out where it happens and the reasons. If there are Catholics and they are known to be Catholics-it is a difficult question in the sense that there are so many baptised but they are not what we would call practising Catholics. It is difficult if they are not known at all in the community and suddenly you have an admission request and the name appears for the first time and they are unknown. That is one of the problems.
Q278 <Mr. Chaytor:> I have a final question for Bishop Stephen about the Church of England's approach to inclusivity, quotas and admitting children who are not of your faith. What is your view?
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> I go back to where I began the session, with just a brief line of history. Our history, certainly since the National Society in the 19th century, has been to provide high quality education where the name of God is honoured, and what I was saying about the spiritual dimension, for all the people of the community. The particular issues that challenge us at the moment, as we try to express the fact that we are not the Church of the nation but the Church for the nation, is that distinction between primary and secondary.
If you look at primary schools, 25.5% of children are educated in Church of England schools and the whole history has been inclusive. We are local, we are earthed in the community. Although there are issues to do with primary schools, they are not the sort that we have been talking about this morning. It is at the secondary level where, because of the number of Anglican schools at the moment, it is only 7.2%. We are very different from the Roman Catholic church. We have far fewer Anglican secondary schools. We are working at it. We have opened a significant number of new ones and we hope that that will continue. But trying to retain the earthedness in the local community, while accepting that there will be Anglican parents, Christian parents and Muslim parents who want to send their children to Anglican schools, is difficult.
One of our schools in my diocese is in Ashford, where we took over a school in one of the most deprived parts. Fortunately, for once, the Lord in whom we believe was on our side and very soon after moving in the school burned down and so we were able to build a new school.
Q279 <Mr. Chaytor:> This was an act of God, presumably.
<Rt Rev. Stephen Venner:> I did not go quite that far.
The school has some particular issues at the moment, but if you look at the story of the school you will find that it was deeply embedded in the local community. The vast majority of children who went to it were from the local community. They still are, but the percentage of Christian parents choosing to send their children rose gently over the years during which it was open to a point where it was about 25% or 30%, which enabled it to be much more distinctively a Christian school, but still very much within and earthed within the community. That is the vision that the Church of England has as the Church for the nation.
<Chairman:> Bishop Stephen, Bishop Patrick and Peter Irvine, may I thank you? This has been a stimulating session. We have learned a lot. My colleagues are getting very restless, but they have been very loyal. We have remained quorate even though the Chancellor is calling us in six minutes' time.