Column: System unkind to keep siblings apart

The Rev John Smith tackles school admissions in his latest column.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 2:46 pm
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I am hearing this story time and time again.

A child goes to a primary school and is happy, content, thriving and learning.

A sibling reaches school age and is looking forward to joining their brother or sister at the school, as is the child already at the school.

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They can enjoy the life of the school together, support each other, and even take pride in each other’s achievements.

The older pupil may even be able to show the ropes to the younger one.

As they grow older, they will share values which they will take back to their home and their friends.

All sounds good, but there the story ends and a new one must be started.

The child’s application is declined and the two children must go to different schools, meaning two journeys to schools that probably start classes at the same time.

No time to go in and reassure a nervous child; no time to linger at the school gates with the other parents.

Instead a rapid journey (almost certainly by car) to the next school.

One pupil early, one possibly late, divided loyalties and more pressure.

It is difficult to find out why schools would choose to separate siblings.

Why on earth would a school choose to make life difficult for families?

What do they think it is saying to a child whose brother or sister is refused? The school wants me, but not my sibling?

This is cruel. This is madness. This is unkind.

I more than suspect that apart from the priority that must – and should – be given to looked-after children and those with special needs, the main criteria will be having a particular faith.

When faith comes before everything else and comes before all other values, then it is devalued.

I say this as a man of faith, as an Anglican priest.

Yes, faith is important, but not a particular denomination because that way lies sectarianism.

That way lies the belief that ‘I am right and you are wrong’.

That way lies a denial of all that is good in what other people believe.

What is the sense in faith and belief making life difficult for children and their parents?

There is no sense, only nonsense.