The London Oratory School, one of Britain’s top state schools, has taken the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to court over claims it operated an unfair admissions policy and discriminated against non-Catholics.
Representing the school, Charles Béar QC, told the High Court the school’s “Catholic ethos” was under threat, and accused the adjudicator of making a “sustained root and branch” attack on its admissions criteria.
The all-boys school, which was attended by Tony Blair’s sons and is currently education the son of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, was forced to rewrite its admissions criteria last July following the OSA investigation.
The Guardian reports that the investigation was brought after the adjudicator backed a complaint from the British Humanist Association that the school breached the national admissions code by giving priority to Catholic children.
The school decided the fight back, however, and is seeking a judicial review of the OSA’s report, accusing the adjudicator of making “basic errors” and misconstruing the admissions code to reach “logically unsustainable” findings.
Mr Béar said the accusation that caused most concern was that less well-off Catholic families were “unfairly disadvantaged” by the school’s admissions policy.
He said that the school has a “strongly Catholic ethos” and aimed to serve Catholics across the whole of London. Its mission is to assist parents in educating their children in the principles and teachings of the Church, and its high academic standards mean it is heavily oversubscribed, with at least 800 children applying each year for just 160 places.
Mr Béar said: “The school view is that altering the faith-based criteria will alter the composition of the (pupil) intake and damage the school ethos.”
Despite the judicial review, the school has changed its 2015 admissions policy in line with the OSA’s recommendations after realising the hearing would not be concluded in time. However, it still wants clarification that its previous policy was lawful in the hope of reinstating it for 2016.