It's that time of year again, when schools decide to segregate children along religious lines. Parents of Barnet's toddlers will have some hard decisions to face come January, when the deadline for eadmissions hits. Here's the deal. Attend a church you don't believe in, or risk having your kid's chances at a decent education dashed to pieces because you didn't swallow your pride? That's what it comes down to for many parents who don't like the divisive landscape of faith-based selection, but have to play the game in order to ensure a place for their child in a 'good' school.
Will religion really get my toddler into a decent, local school? you might ask.
This list will enlighten you. The right hand column shows the "criterion under which school place will be offered".
Akiva J ewish 60 158 ~ Qualifying synagogues (0.967)(Source: Barnet Council, A Guide to Primary Education in Barnet 2015)
All Saints CE (N20) 30 152 ~ Live within parish of All Saints (0.616)
All Saints CE (NW2) 30 83 ~ Any other children (0.326)
Alma Jewish 30 142 Faith Lottery
Open Straight line distance (1.101)
Annunciation Catholic Infant 60 132 ~ Other Baptised Catholics (0.459)
Beis Yaakov Jewish 70 76 ~ Other Orthodox Jewish Girls
Beit Shvidler Jewish 30 46 ~ Orthodox Children at Nursery (3.130)
Blessed Dominic Catholic 60 133 ~ Any other children (0.186)
Broadfields 90 154 ~ Living Outside Defined Area (2.402)
Christ Church CE 30 127 Foundation Priority Area without own Church School (0.573)
Open Living in Priority Area (0.574)
Etz Chaim Jewish 28 107 Foundation Cert of Religious Practice (0.636)
Grasvenor Avenue Infant 30 99 ~ Living Outside Defined Area
Hasmonean Jewish 30 67 ~ Orthodox Attending Nursery
Hollickwood 30 76 ~ Straight line distance (0.095)
Holy Trinity CE 30 108 ~ Straight line distance (0.260)
Independent Jewish Day 28 57 ~ Orthodox Attending Nursery
Mathilda Marks Kennedy 30 106 ~ Other Priority Children (0.959)
Menorah Foundation 58 82 ~ Jewish Attending Nursery
Menorah Primary 50 98 ~ Orthodox Attending Nursery
Monken Hadley CE 20 122 ~ Children who live locally (1.215)
Osidge 60 213 ~ Live outside catchment area (0.471)
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic 30 139 ~ Catholic in Eligible Parishes (0.844)
Pardes House Jewish 41 50 ~ Any Other Orthodox Jewish
Parkfield Primary 60 87 ~ Living Outside Priority Area
Rimon Jewish 28 99 Foundation Attending United Synagogue (0.818)
Open Proximity to School (0.666)
Rosh Pinah Jewish 60 133 ~ 6 Points on CRP-Siblings (0.732)
Sacks Morasha Jewish 30 59 ~ Priority Attending Kinloss (0.026)
Sacred Heart Catholic 60 209 ~ Catholic in Eligible Parishes (1.012)
St Agnes' Catholic 45 115 ~ Resident in Parish (0.608)
St Andrew's CE 30 93 ~ Any other children (1.475)
St Catherine's Catholic 60 189 ~ Catholic in Eligible Parishes (0.722)
St John's CE (N11) 30 153 ~ In Parish & Worship at other Christian Church
St John's CE (N20) 30 130 ~ Worship at other Anglican Church (0.772)
St Joseph's Catholic Infant 60 198 ~ Catholic Living in other Parishes (0.563)
St Mary's & St John's CE 90 215 ~ Any other children (0.707)
St Mary's CE (EN4) 30 171 ~ Christian in 4 Parishes (0.769)
St Mary's CE (N3) 60 187 Foundation Worship Elsewhere
Open Proximity to School (0.638)
St Paul's CE (N11) 30 88 ~ Any other children (0.180)
St Paul's CE (NW7) 30 97 ~ Nearest CE school (1.181)
St Theresa's Catholic 30 107 ~ Other Catholic Children (2.040)
St Vincent's Catholic 45 119 ~ Christian Children supported by Minister (0.546)
The Hyde 60 129 ~ Living Outside Priority Area
Trent CE 30 97 ~ Other Christian Churches (0.509)
You see, when I tell my friends and extended family that many schools in my area use the help of elderly priests to decide which 3 year-olds are worthy of a local primary school based on which holy book their parents worship, they think I'm being flippant. By my count, there are 26 on this list. That's a lot of segregation before children can even speak about God, let alone profess their faith.
But where's the harm? Aren't these schools offering a valuable ethical background to small children? Where's the damage in that?
It's actually quite significant. The Guardian analysed data from almost 20,000 schools in 2012, and conclusively demonstrated that selection via religion was correlated with social selection. Effectively, the pushy middle classes are far more likely to get their children into a 'faith' school, leaving the less advantaged pupils with whatever is left.
It's simple. If you play this game, you are contributing to a divisive and morally questionable process.
The British Humanist Association has been campaigning against this for years, and the Faith Schools campaign is gaining momentum. If you are as appalled as I am at the extent of Barnet's divisiveness in primary school selection, please log on here and add your name to the petition to reverse the inequalities caused by this morally objectionable practice.
Shame on the so-called spiritual leaders who foster it.