London Oratory School wins admissions policy court case

London Oratory School
Image caption The school won its case against claims it was socially selective

A top Catholic state school has won a legal challenge against findings its admissions criteria unfairly disadvantaged poorer children.

A High Court judge said an education watchdog's conclusions relating to The London Oratory School were "flawed".

Mr Justice Cobb said findings the school was socially selective and discriminatory must be quashed.

The school challenged a number of conclusions by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA).

Head teacher David McFadden said: "It is profoundly regrettable that the school - and other schools - have to expend precious resources, year after year, in standing up to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator."

The OSA investigation was triggered by a complaint from the British Humanist Association about the faith-based criteria used to select pupils at the heavily oversubscribed Catholic academy.

The school went to the High Court to challenge a number of OSA findings that its admissions code had been breached in 2014 and 2015.

Faith-based admissions

Following a hearing in March, Mr Justice Cobb announced his decision to quash some of the decisions but upheld others.

The judge rejected the school's challenge that it was a breach of the code to include "service in a Catholic parish or in the wider Catholic Church" as one of its selection criteria.

This could include reading, singing in the choir, flower arranging or carrying out voluntary work.

He ruled an issue relating to the "extent to which the school had regard to the diocesan guidance" when considering its faith-based admissions criteria should be investigated by a different adjudicator.

The British Humanist Association's campaigns manager Richy Thompson said: "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."

Pupils at the boys' school have included the sons of senior politicians like former prime minister Tony Blair, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman.

More than 800 11-year-olds apply annually for 160 places at the school, which was founded in 1863.

Its junior house and co-educational sixth form are also oversubscribed.

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