[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 00:59 GMT
Churches welcome interview ban
Children walking into school
Critics of the government's plans fear greater selection
Church leaders have applauded proposals to outlaw interviewing for school admissions, as part of a compromise school reforms deal.

Interviewing is against the admissions code and few schools in England do it.

But a test case involving the Roman Catholic London Oratory School showed this could not be enforced.

In an open letter to the BBC News website the Church of England and Roman Catholic education chiefs, John Hall and Oona Stannard, welcomed the ban.

"Faith criteria in the selection process should be as transparent, fair and straight-forward as possible", they say.

They note that in recent years it has been lawful to interview pupils only on matters of practice of faith or commitment.

This is to ensure pupils fulfil any faith requirements in a school governing body's selection criteria.

"Such interviews in our view were unnecessary and inappropriate," they say.

Faith criteria "can be confirmed simply by a priest's or minister's reference".

Admissions in spotlight

When the current code of practice on admissions was proposed they had strongly supported the removal of interviews, which in fact only a small number of church schools were using.

"Whilst the code of practice was guidance and not statutory we were pleased to see the use of interviews decline further.

They add: "We have, however, continued to encourage government to outlaw interviews and we welcome this step in the forthcoming legislation."

There has been a renewed focus on admissions policies as a result of the government's proposals for so-called trust schools.

The plans have run into considerable opposition from Labour backbenchers.

Last week the Commons education select committee, in its report on the government's White Paper, recommends that the government brings forward regulations to prohibit interviewing "or other proxies for academic selection" as soon as possible.

Test case

It said a recent case in which a school had been allowed by the education secretary of state to continue to interview parents despite the admissions code "illustrates what can happen".

The committee did not name the school, but the celebrated case was that of the London Oratory - which was attended, as it happens, by the prime minister's sons.

Told it was in breach of the admissions code it went to the High Court, arguing - successfully - that it should be able to continue interviewing prospective pupils and their parents.

It said it was required to "have regard to" the code - but not to abide by it.

Ms Kelly decided, on advice, that she could not overrule the school.

As well as outlawing interviews, the government will make it clear that schools will have to adhere to the admissions code, not just "have regard" to it.

The Oratory's headmaster could not be contacted for comment on Monday.


The letter:

Interviews for school admissions

by Canon John Hall, chief education officer, the Church of England
and Oona Stannard, chief executive and director, Catholic Education Service

Both the Church of England and the Catholic Church have pressed government over the past few years to outlaw interviews for the selection of pupils for Church schools.

In recent years it has only been lawful to interview pupils on matters of practice of faith or commitment, to ensure that they fulfil any faith requirements in the governing body's selection criteria. Such interviews in our view were unnecessary and inappropriate. Faith criteria in the selection process should be as transparent, fair and straight-forward as possible and can be confirmed simply by a priest's or minister's reference.

When the current code of practice on admissions was proposed we strongly supported the removal of interviews. In fact only a small number of Church schools were using interviews. Whilst the code of practice was guidance and not statutory we were pleased to see the use of interviews decline further. In reality, they have formed only a very small proportion of schools' admissions procedures. We have, however, continued to encourage government to outlaw interviews and we welcome this step in the forthcoming legislation.




RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific