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Leaked letters call for cap on Catholic pupil percentages
Cabinet ministers want to see 50 per cent limit on number of Catholic pupils allowed into new school
Mother’s emotional Easter plea to the killers of slain PC Ronan
By James Walsh
Leaked letters between two senior cabinet ministers have revealed that the Government may be keen to limit the number of practising Catholic children who can be admitted to Catholic schools.
Education Secretary Michael Gove has suggested that a proposed new Catholic school in London should limit its intake of Catholic pupils to 50 per cent.
In letters that were leaked to the BBC and print media, Business Secretary Vince Cable wrote to Mr Gove about a school being proposed by the Diocese of Westminster for a site in Clifden Road, Twickenham, which is in his constituency.
The Catholic Church has already fought off recent attempts by Labour to open up new Church schools in England to the wider population, but laws mean that new free schools and academies, if they are faithbased, have to limit their ‘faith intake’ to 50 per cent of the total, if they are over-subscribed.
However, the legislation doesn’t apply to the new Twickenham project, which will be voluntary-aided. The question about its intake has arisen because RC schools in the London area tend to be oversubscribed by Catholics.
In a reply to Mr Cable, Mr Gove said he would consider a cap on faith-based admissions at the proposed school to be “very sensible”.
But the diocese wants to give 90 per cent of the places to children from Catholic families and ensure that the other 10 per cent prioritises pupils who went to Catholic primaries.
“The proposals are for the school to be a voluntary-aided school,” Mr Gove wrote.
“As you know, this means that the school will be able to admit pupils on grounds of faith, but the 50 per cent non-faith provision for the school’s admissions will not apply. The suggestion that the school takes on a similar provision voluntarily seems very sensible to me, and I would welcome such a move.”
But the comments have drawn sharp criticism from the Catholic Education Service, which has said that turning Catholics away and admitting others just because they were not Catholic would be “odd”.
In an interview with the BBC, Catholic Education Service deputy director Greg Pope said Catholic parents in the area had been asking for the school.
“We would not seek to open a new voluntary-aided school unless there was demand to fill it,” he said.
“Given that there is, that means you would be in the odd position where you build a Catholic school and turn Catholics away and offer others places simply on the grounds that they are not Catholic. “That would be extraordinary.”
There is now concern that Mr Gove’s latest comments may indicate a change of mind following his previous strong support for discriminatory faithbased admissions policies.
In 2011 he said that despite “sometimes intense hostility from sections of secular opinion”, the Catholic Church had succeeded in a number of areas such as “the right to teach the Catholic religion” and “the rights over admission and staff appointments”.
Continued on page 2
In a moving, in-depth interview this week, the mother of murdered Northern Ireland policeman Ronan Kerr talks about how she’s coped in the year since his death, and reveals her thoughts and feelings about his killers.
“It’s just so difficult from day to day to live with it all, but as well as that I just want to appeal to the people who’ve done this – they have to live with this as well for the rest of their lives, it’s not just us, they have to live with the knowledge to know they killed a young, innocent man.
“He may have had a police uniform, he was a lovely young man, he was taken from his family and this isn’t the way forward.”
Full interview – see page 4
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