School “Baptism Barrier” to be addressed

The Minister For Health, Richard Brouton, has committed to making the application process to schools fairer by addressing the “baptism barrier” that currently stands, where schools who are oversubscribed may discriminate between applicants on the basis of their religion.

According to a survey by Equate, one in four parents would not have baptised their children if they hadn’t needed to do so in order to get them into a school.

Minister Brouton is examining the following scenarios:

Catchment area approach, prohibiting religious schools from giving preference to children of their own religion who live outside the catchment area ahead of non-religious children who live inside the catchment.

‘Nearest school rule’, allowing religious schools to give preference to a religious child only where it is that child’s nearest school of that particular religion.

Quota system, which would allow a religious school to give preference to children of its own religion in respect of only a certain proportion of places, meaning the remaining places would be allocated based on other admissions criteria, such as proximity to the school or a lottery.

Outright prohibition on religious schools using religion as a factor in admissions, meaning all places would be allocated based on other factors.

Minister Brouton will have to tackle the legal obstacles such as the Equality Act, which currently allows schools to discriminate on the basis of religion if they feel it is necessary to uphold the ethos of the school.