From the Telegraph newspaper:
Rising numbers of children are being given late baptisms amid a scramble for places at the most popular Roman Catholic schools, it has emerged.
Figures show that the number of children baptised after their first birthday has soared by a third in just 10 years.
At the same time, fewer “cradle” baptisms of children under the age of one are being recorded. Similar figures have been recorded by the Church of England.
The disclosure – in data from the Pastoral Research Centre Trust – prompted fresh claims that “pew jumping” parents are effectively feigning religious observance to get their children into sought-after faith schools.
Late baptisms are often sought by parents who suddenly realise that certificates are needed to meet the entrance requirements of oversubscribed primary schools, it is claimed.
One parent told the Telegraph how he got his three children baptised just a fortnight before the application deadline to meet a school’s admissions rules.
It comes weeks after a major study by the Sutton Trust charity found that one-in-10 middle-class parents had exaggerated or lied about their faith to secure entry to religious schools.
But the PRCT insisted that the rise could not simply be explained by church school admissions.
Anthony Spencer, the trust’s director, said the move was indicative of more modern attitudes towards Catholic traditions, which has also seen a sharp decline in those taking part in confession and following rules on contraception.
“The social control exercised by the bishops and clergy over the Catholic laity has been hugely reduced,” he said. “Parishioners think for themselves, take their own moral decisions, and don’t jump when the priest tells them to.”
But Jonathan Romain, chairman of the Accord Coalition, which campaigns against faith school selection policies, said: “Many Catholic schools will only take children whom they have baptised, so for parents desperate for a school place, baptism is a significant entry ticket to a local school.”