Brondesbury Park’s Islamia Primary School ordered to revise admission criteria which ‘unfairly disadvantage siblings’

Islamia Primary School. Picture: Google

Islamia Primary School. Picture: Google - Credit: Archant

A Brondesbury Park faith school has been told to revise its admission requirements which “unfairly disadvantage siblings”.

Islamia Primary School in Salusbury Road has been asked by the Office of the School’s Adjudicator to make the changes before the end of next month.

Adjudicator Peter Goringe found that the school’s new criteria do not breach the School Admissions Code but that their effects are, in his view, “unfair”.

After children in the care system and children of staff, the voluntary-aided school’s newly-introduced oversubscription criteria gave priority to Muslim children of at least one parent who has reverted to Islam and Muslim children of parents who are former pupils of the school (alumni). Children having siblings at the school became the fifth criteria.

Objectors argued the new criteria were in breach of the School Admissions Code by giving priority to children on the basis of “practical or financial support parents may give the school” or according to the educational status of the parents applying. Mr Goringe rejected these arguments and found no breaches.

The objectors also argued the consultation preceding the new criteria was flawed but the adjudicator found against them on that issue as well.

The code requires the processes for allocation of places be fair and the complainants referred to the school’s arrangements as “unfair”, according to the adjudicator’s report.

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Mr Goringe calculated that over the last six years an average of 32.5 siblings were admitted, leading him to believe that more than the 35 the school’s criteria account for may seek admission next year.

He said the code does not define the term “fair” but said: “I consider it is possible that the effect of the arrangements will be that siblings may not obtain a place at the school, as a result of the higher priority given to the children of reverts and alumni. In my judgment, the disadvantage to siblings and their families that such an outcome would cause outweighs the advantage the new criteria would bring to the school and the families who would benefit from them. This means that the arrangements are, in my view, unfair and do not comply with paragraph 14 of the Code. I uphold the objection in this respect.”

One objector claimed the policy was discriminatory against the Somali community – something the school’s chair of governors denied.

In the report, the objector is quoted as saying there was a “net increase of Somali children and their siblings securing spaces at Islamia due to closeness to the school, being within the catchment area and having sibling priority”.

“l believe these changes are aimed at reducing that through decreased sibling priority,” said the anonymous objector.

The school’s chair of governors is quoted as saying: “There is no factual basis for the complainants [sic] suggestion that the policy indirectly discriminates against and causes disadvantage to many local children from a specific ethnic and socio-economic background. The over subscription criteria give priority to the most local children to the school whatever specific ethnic or socio-economic background they are from.”

Mr Goringe wrote: “Although the objector’s arguments appear to me to have some merit, it would be difficult to establish whether the effect of the proposed changes would be specifically to disadvantage the Somali racial group.

“Indeed, any finding in this matter would not add materially to my conclusion relating to unfairness. I therefore make no further comment, other than to stress the importance of the admission authority’s monitoring of the effect of the arrangements in future years to ensure that they do not run the risk of a successful challenge that they may cause indirect discrimination on the grounds of race.”

Sofia Moussaoui, the school’s chair of governors, said: “The admissions committee of the school are extremely pleased that the adjudicator has dismissed the complaints confirming that there were no breaches in respect of paragraphs 1.9(e), 1.9 (f), 1.42, 1.43, 1.44 and 1.45 of the admissions code.

“We have taken on board that he felt the policy could create unfairness to siblings although he also recognised that there are benefits to the criteria that we have introduced. The adjudicator makes it clear that the code does not define the term ‘fair’. It is quite clear therefore that the adjudicator has made a subjective judgment in this respect and that it isn’t a matter that can be objectively determined. The admissions committee do not believe that providing 35 out of 60 places to siblings each year, especially as many schools do not give priority to siblings at all, is unfair.”

This story was amended in a number of respects on November 2. It originally referred to the adjudicator finding that there was“discrimination” against siblings and included the suggestion that Brent was an objector. We confirm these statements were factually incorrect and apologise for the error. The original story also did not explain that the adjudicator rejected the complaints that the school didn’t correctly follow the consultation process and that the adjudicator rejected the complaints that the introduction of the two new priority categories breached the code. It also didn’t include the school’s rejection of the claim that the policy was discriminatory against Somali people.