The Roman Catholic state school attended by Nick Clegg's son, which also educated two of Tony Blair's children, uses a complex, faith-based entry system to cherrypick, in effect, a pupil population that is disproportionately privileged and white, according to a damning report by the schools admissions watchdog.
In a ruling described by campaigners as the most robust ever released by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA), the London Oratory school was found to have broken 105 aspects of the school admissions code over two years: 63 instances involving students entering in September 2013 and 42 connected to this year's cohort.
Among the breaches, the report found, was that the school had a notably lower proportion of pupils from non-white or deprived backgrounds compared not only with its local community, in Fulham, west London, but with many other Catholic state secondary schools in the capital.
The school wrongly set complex religious requirements, such as parents needing to provide original baptism certificates for the child and both parents, and needing to give details that could reveal, for example, whether they were married.
"I do not believe that the school can claim that its ethnic composition is even representative of that of the Catholic children attending schools in the part of London in which it is located," said adjudicator Bryan Slater. He added: "From the evidence I have seen there is good reason to believe that the admission arrangements the school uses have the effect of acting to produce at the very least a degree of social selection."
Overall, the report said, this meant the school had breached the section of the admissions code prohibiting schools from disadvantaging, directly or indirectly, children from particular social or racial groups. One result of this, Slater added, was to hamper the chances of children living near the school, which is based in a relatively deprived area. He wrote: "The arrangements clearly operate to the disadvantage of those living locally, with only eight offers of places being made to the 104 residents of Hammersmith and Fulham who were seeking a place.
"Much higher proportions of applicants from some more distant boroughs were offered places, and while the school justifies this intentional geographical spread of its intake on the basis of the pan-London mission which it says it has, it is nevertheless evidence of the selective effect of the school's arrangements, as it would seem, by postcode." Last year the OSA ruled that the school broke parts of the admissions code by giving preference to pupils whose parents spent at least three years giving practical help to their local church community – for example, by arranging flowers or singing in the choir. The OSA said this breached rules aimed at preventing middle-class parents gaining an advantage by offering practical or financial support to schools or associated bodies.
The secondary academy school, where around 90% of pupils get five or more good GCSEs and which generally has five applicants per place, resisted this ruling, which ended up being quashed for technical reasons connected to Catholic church guidance on admissions. This, in turn, prompted the OSA to begin a new inquiry in April, culminating in Tuesday's 39-page report.
The report was prompted by a complaint from the British Humanist Association, which argues more widely that faith-based schools too often select pupils from overly advantaged backgrounds. Richy Thompson of the association called the ruling "the most comprehensive we have ever seen".
He added: "It is vital that no school discriminates against any pupil on the basis of religion, ethnicity or social standing and we are glad that the school must now rewrite its admissions policy to lessen the degree of discrimination on all fronts."
A Department of Education spokesperson said: "All schools must abide by an adjudicator's determination. We expect them to amend their arrangements to comply at the earliest opportunity."
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the school.
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