The practice of state funded faith schools discriminating in favour of prospective pupils on the basis of their parents' religion is well known. 'On your knees, avoid the fees' has become common parlance in conversations about religiously selective state schools. But the ways in which faith schools undermine families' choices can be more diverse, complex, and occasionally counterintuitive.
The problem of families being pushed into a faith school, because of a lack of options or faith groups' influence over other education decisions, is less visible. A case in Leicestershire, now the subject of a legal challenge, provides one such example.
Parents at St Thomas More, a Catholic primary school in Leicester, claim the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham which runs the school is fostering discrimination by impeding a meaningful choice of secondary school. The diocese is blocking local non-faith (community-ethos) schools from listing St Thomas More as a feeder. This leaves parents at the school with almost no options but St Paul's Catholic School, a secondary school run by the diocese's trust.
Another community-ethos academy affected by the diocese's meddling is Beauchamp College. When they consulted on listing St Thomas More as a feeder, the diocese wrote to all parents, in a tone described as "intimidating", criticising support for the plan. In 2020, 45 St Thomas More parents called for the move, followed by 60% of consultation respondents. However, the diocese remained adamant that St Thomas More pupils are expected to transfer to St Paul's.