Faith schools could lose their right to select pupils on religious grounds following a landmark legal ruling, it emerged last night.
The Supreme Court yesterday backed an earlier judgment that the JFS Jewish school in North London had racially discriminated against a boy by denying him a place because his mother was not born in the faith.
The heavily oversubscribed school stipulated in its admissions policy it would give priority to children whose mothers are Jewish or who have converted under the Chief Rabbi’s rules.
This is because Judaism is passed on through the maternal bloodline, or through conversion. Although the mother had converted, it was not recognised by the Chief Rabbi because it had been in a progressive rather than an orthodox synagogue.
The boy, a 12-year-old known only as M in the case, challenged JFS’s refusal to admit him.
A Court of Appeal ruling that the school’s policy amounted to racial discrimination, since Jews are an ethnic group, was narrowly backed by the Supreme Court judges, by a margin of five to four.
Some 50 Jewish schools which operated similar admissions policies have already rewritten their rules.
But in a submission during the longrunning case, lawyers for Education Secretary Ed Balls warned of ‘wide ramifications’ for other faith schools.
They said Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish schools could all be forced to give equal priority to non-believers or pupils of other faiths to avoid breaking race discrimination laws.