Catholic schools in Britain have been asked to drop the words "mother" and "father" from admission forms due to concerns that the terms discriminated against "separated, step- and gay parents."
The Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, has announced that it will be asking more than 2,200 schools to omit the words from the admission forms to comply with a government ruling that considered the terms too restrictive.
The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles admissions disputes on behalf of the government, issued the ruling after a complaint from a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London.
According to Catholic News Service, the parent complained that the school's admission form had discriminated against "separated, step- and gay parents" because it only left spaces for the names of "mother/guardian" and "father/guardian."
Peter Goringe, one of 12 adjudicators, noted that the parent objected on four grounds, but he did not uphold the three grounds, which were related to the taking of collection, asking for details of a parent's pattern of worship and asking the parish priest to endorse the completed form.
However, he upheld the complaint against the admission forms, saying, "in the absence of any clarification of the term 'parent', the use of the words 'mother' and 'father' might, as the objector suggests, be taken to imply that the school is restricting its definition."
Holy Ghost school can only admit 30 pupils each year, but 48 applicants have already made it as their first choice this year.
The school's admission form was found to be in breach of the code that prohibits admission authorities from seeking unnecessary information to apply their oversubscription criteria.
Goringe also noted that the school gives priority to those worshipping at Holy Ghost church, contrary to the diocese's own guidance. He said that he also found similar problems at two neighboring schools, St. Anselm and St. Boniface, and determined that all three schools should revise their admission policies by the end of February next year.
CES has already advised more than 2,200 schools to revise their policies to take account of the adjudicator's decision, but the bishops will still have the final decision over whether to accept the request for schools in the diocese.
"We expect all Catholic schools to comply with the school admissions code and we work closely with dioceses and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to ensure this happens," a CES spokesman said, according to Catholic Herald.
The spokesman further noted that "we have been working closely with dioceses and the OSA to develop a Certificate of Catholic Practice. This aims to produce a unified approach to admissions for all Catholic schools and which fully complies with the code."
Some reports from the British media have indicated that hundreds of Catholic schools have already started using the terms "parent 1" and "parent 2."