Archbishop of Canterbury in 24 hour recantation

The Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed for today’s The Times and he seemed to give support for a relaxation if not an ending of the admissions discrimination allowed to state religious schools:

Church of England faith schools are moving away from selecting pupils on the basis of their religion, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said that selection was not necessarily the key to good results and believes that throwing open the doors to all-comers can help the Church achieve its mission to alleviate poverty.

…”There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests”, he said.

Within a few hours, Lambeth Palace reacted, as The Times again reports:

Archbishop Welby later attempted to tone down his comments. In a statement, released by Lambeth Palace, he said: “I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments on this subject should be seen as dissenting from this policy.”

So, the Archbishop has after all failed to join the large majority of the public – 73% – who agree that state-funded religious discrimination must end – a shame, but not unexpected.

Although it may beak the record for speed this is not the first time that prominent Church of England representatives have been forced to flip-flop on the issue of school admissions. Promises of at least 25% inclusivity in 2006, 90% inclusivity in 2011 and 50% inclusivity in London have all failed to crystallise into concrete action.

This all exposes the increasingly irresolvable tension at the heart of the Church of England. Many within the Church of England want it to be seen as a fighter for the disadvantaged in society but at the same time they are members of an extraordinarily privileged denomination. This is nowhere truer than in relation to “their” schools.

Let’s firstly remember that these schools have their running costs 100% funded by the public, allowing the promotion of one religious denomination at the general expense – an enormous privilege.

Secondly, let’s never stop pointing out that state-funded religious schools – or ‘faith’ schools as they are now generally known – are a source of massive discrimination against the poor and disadvantaged in society. In selecting on religious grounds they also select on socio-economic and racial grounds. When you realise that they contain more pupils than grammar and independent schools put together, you see that they are easily the largest source of discrimination in our education system today.

The figures are stark: nationally, Church of England secondary schools take 13% fewer pupils eligible for free school meals than would be expect for schools in their areas; Catholic secondaries take 15% fewer. 51 of the 100 most socio-economical unrepresentative state schools in the country are religious ones and the Church of England – far from being the champion of the poor – is head defender of this radically unfair and divisive system.


  1. James Reade

    Hang on a minute here.

    The quote from the Archbishop is really hardly a quote, now, is it? As in, it doesn’t contain anything the Archbishop actually said, and is entirely what the Times wrote.

    How then can it be that it’s a recantation if nothing’s actually been said (or at any rate quoted by you) to recant from?!

    I mean, it’s clear you have an agenda against the church, but you could at least be a little less sloppy in your writing.

  2. Pingback: Tories and the Church speak out in support of discriminatory faith schools | Labour Humanists

  3. Andrew Copson

    Here you go James: “There’s a steady move away from faith-based entry tests” – Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Thank you for your comment. I know you have an agenda to support the church even in its most socio-economically discriminatory exclusive work (which is what I object to, by the way, not the Church itself), but perhaps you could be a bit more polite about it? It’s not sloppy to directly quote a news article.

  4. Christopher Shell

    ”In selecting on ‘religious’ grounds they also select on socioeconomic and racial grounds.”

    1. That must be true. For example in London more than 50% of churchgoers are ‘black’. If you are to select on ‘religious’ grounds at all, then this will happen.

    2. If being Christian produces, or even is correlated with, higher socioeconomic standards, that’s precisely an argument for spreading it not removing it from education. So it’s not just a matter of a different policy being suggested, but a matter of the opposite policy to that which you propose being suggested by the facts and the logic.

    3. If faith schools get better results than the average, then you increase their number. This is in line with the basic rule that no-one surely would disagree with: characteristics that produce success ought obviously to get replicated and increased; and those that don’t ought to get dropped.

    4. ‘Christian’ will often be the no.1 distinctive/defining characteristic of the ethos of these schools.
    So the very most important characteristic is the one you want to remove?

    5. You want to prevent the parents passing on to their children the ethos which with the wisdom of years they have chosen to be the best option they’ve found? The best is the one you ban?

    6. Religious observance and marriage are time and again shown to be just about the two best predictors of both health and happiness.

    7. Your argument to some extent boils down to: It is the schools’ fault that poorer children are less likely to attend church. No: as you’ll agree, it is down to the parents, and has nothing to do with the schools.

    8. It would not be wrong for the church’s attitude to the poor to be that there is no reason why there should continue forever to be the same percentage of people classifiable as poor in the first place. (A separate point: what counts as poor has changed. Now ‘poor’ families may well have plenty of TVs and mobiles etc.. By definition there will always be relatively poor people.) A sensible policy would be to try to reduce that percentage rather than writing it into policy as a constant.

    9. As for agendas, I should hope that everyone has an agenda. An agenda is the will to change circumstances to become the way that one perceives to be best.

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