A High Court judge has today ruled in favour of the London Oratory School’s admissions policy, strongly criticising the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) as “verging on the pedantic”.
The west London school had sought a judicial review of a ruling by the OSA in July last year that some aspects of its arrangements for 2014 and 2015 breached the schools admissions code. This followed a complaint from the British Humanist Association about the faith-based criteria used to select pupils for places at the school.
The OSA had found the London Oratory School to be discriminatory on the basis of both ethnicity and socio-economic background, but the school argued in court that the adjudicators’ report was flawed by basic errors and that the OSA had failed to apply the right legal tests.
In his ruling today Mr Justice Cobb said the OSA had been “unlawful and/or unreasonable” in its finding against the school. He went on to say that that the adjudicator had adopted an “erroneous approach” and had been “verging on the pedantic”. He said the adjudicator’s decision was “reached by a process which was procedurally unfair to the school”.
Headmaster David McFadden said: “The judge’s decision supports us in continuing to preserve the school’s ethos and serving Catholic families throughout the whole of London.”
The school’s solicitor Ane Vernon said: “This damaging allegation has been found by the judge to be wrong and unfair, and the finding vindicates the robust approach the school has had to take against the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.”
The London Oratory School, one of England’s oldest state-funded Catholic boys’ schools, came to wider public attention when former prime minister Tony Blair, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman sent their sons there.
The school, which aims to take in pupils from across London, is hugely oversubscribed, with at least 800 11-year-olds applying for 160 places each year. It had told the judge that because his judicial review was too late for the current admissions round, it had reluctantly changed its admissions procedure for 2015 in line with the OSA adjudicator’s findings.