A petition has been launched calling on a Lancaster school to end religious selection.
The online petition called “The Fair Admissions Campaign” is calling on Ripley St Thomas CofE Academy to stop religious selection. It states: “As a state-funded school, paid for through our taxes, we believe it should be open to ALL children across the Lancaster district regardless of faith or background.
“At present Ripley St Thomas School has strict entry criteria based on religious beliefs and church attendance, operating on a points-based system.
“Ripley can select 100 per cent of its pupil intake on religious grounds thanks to exemptions in equality legislation that apply to faith schools.
“No other public service providers are allowed to discriminate in this way.”
The petition has so far picked up 283 signatures.
The school, which was established in 1864, became an Academy in 2011.
It is currently consulting on changes to its admissions policy. Governors said they were consulting for two reasons - firstly that the school becomes less crowded, and secondly to increase access for children from a wider range of primary schools.
In a statement they said: “We welcome responses from members of the local community to aid governors in making the best decision. We remain committed to ensuring we provide the best possible education for our pupils while allowing the school to retain its Christian ethos. We are also committed to working with other schools in the area through our multi academy trust, The Bay Learning Trust.”
The consultation proposes removing a section of the school’s admissions policy for 2021-22.
The school adopts a points system for entry, and the consultation focuses on reducing the intake in 2021-22 from 280 to 270, and removing a section of the admissions policy which gives priority points to children from certain schools.
The section which could be removed is: “(Points will be given) to children who attend a Church of England Primary School which is part of the Bay Learning Trust, or is a Ripley Trust Foundation School (ie Scotforth St Paul’s, Lancaster Christ Church, Skerton St Luke’s) at the point of application (10 points).
This would mean children who attend any Church of England Primary School at the point of application will be awarded 10 points (previously children from Scotforth St Paul’s, Skerton St Luke’s and Lancaster Christ Church were awarded 10 points and those who attended any other Church of England primary were awarded 5 points).
Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith said: “I’ve heard from parents in Lancaster who feel the secondary school system is unfair because Ripley St Thomas School selects on church attendance. They feel strongly this is discriminatory against those of other faiths or none and have started a petition.
“They are not calling on the school to be non-religious, they are just calling on it to have an admissions procedure that isn’t selecting on attendance at church.
“My opinion, for what it’s worth, I don’t think attendance at any place of worship is a reliable indicator of faith.
“In a city with five state schools, just one considers all children equally. It doesn’t leave some parents with any choice of local school at all.”
A link to the petition is HERE.
A link to the school’s consultation details is HERE.