BHA responds to judgment in London Oratory case

A High Court judgment has been handed down in the case between the London Oratory School in west London and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) after the school decided to judicially review a decision finding it to have  been selecting its pupils on ethnic and socio-economic grounds in its admissions policy and ordered to rewrite its admissions criteria. The British Humanist Association(BHA) was the objector in the case that prompted the decision, and has been involved in the ongoing legal challenge.

BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson responding to the judgment commented: ‘The Oratory still stands as having been found guilty of 99 breaches of the School Admissions Code. The evidence is clear, the school’s intake has consistently been found to be socio-economically skewed and Mr Justice Cobb did not refute the Adjudicator’s contention that a degree of social selection of school candidates was ‘inherent’ in the admissions criteria. It is amongst the ten most socio-economically selective state secondary schools in the country, taking just 6% of pupils eligible for school meals compared to 36% locally.

‘At any rate this judgment upheld the finding that the school was taking into account religious activities not permitted by its diocese, and therefore needs to stop selecting on the basis of activities such as flower arranging. Reintroducing this Catholic service criterion was the main aim of the school's challenge and on this it has lost. Nothing has really been resolved with this judgment and much depends of further submissions and clarification.’

For further information, please contact Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson on or 07815 589 636

The full judgment can be read here.

The BHA first complained about the school’s admissions policy in May 2013. In August 2013 the OSA issued a decision upholding the complaint and ruling against the school, but the school threatened to judicially review this, and in November the OSA found an inconsequential error in its report, leading to the decision being quashed. The new determination made in July 2014, which also looked at the school’s latest policy, again found against the school, and on a much more comprehensive basis than before.

However, in October the School applied to judicially review the decision on nine grounds, including the findings of socio-economic discrimination, of taking account of religious activities not permitted by the school’s Diocese, and of taking into account the religious practice of both parents instead of just one.

Since first submitting this complaint, the BHA has helped found the Fair Admissions Campaign. ‘The Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.’

Read the BHA’s previous comment, ‘Landmark ruling: Schools Adjudicator finds London Oratory School admissions policy to be both racially and socio-economically discriminatory’, 15 July 2014:

Read the OSA’s decision from July 2014:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.