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Boost for religious schools as judge backs baptism admission criteria

by Desmond Busteed

According to the Telegraph, the Oratory, one of Britain's oldest Catholic schools, where both Tony Blair and Nick Clegg have reportedly sent children, has successfully appealed against a ruling by the admissions watchdog that its strict entry criteria unfairly disadvantaged children from less well-off families.

The judge has found that the school was within its rights to ask for evidence that parents are Catholics.

The judgment explains that the school, described as "vastly oversubscribed", applied an extra weighting to those who were baptised before being six months old.

The school was heavily criticised in adjudication last year which found that its policies ran contrary to national admissions rules banning discrimination against children from "a particular social or racial group".

It was claimed that poor families could struggle to meet the stringent commitments to the Church, putting their children at a disadvantage.

In his ruling Mr Justice Cobb said: "It is highly regrettable that the two investigations undertaken in relation to this school since May 2013 have now been shown in material respects to be flawed," he said.

"While I believe that the adjudicator has, in the main, endeavoured to fulfil his responsibilities conscientiously for the long-term benefit of the school, the candidates and their parents, his approach to his task in the specific respects set out (in his ruling) have in my judgment been shown to be unlawful and/or unreasonable and cannot stand.

"This will be of little comfort to the school which has, I am sure, found this process extremely challenging."

However, the judge did maintain that the school should not favour pupils whose parents sing in the choir or take up flower arranging to demonstrate their devotion to the church.

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