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Bishop withdraws support for free school

Bishop Drainey of Middlesbrough (Photo: Mazur/

The Bishop of Middlesbrough has withdrawn support for a free school in Hull after it became clear that the school would not have a Catholic ethos.

The school was to be built on the site of St Mary’s College, an existing Catholic school, but the Department for Education said it could not ensure the school would have “basic Catholic values and ethics”.

Ged Fitzpatrick, head teacher of St Mary’s College, the man behind the proposal, said he is now looking for another site in Hull.

A spokesman at the diocese said: “Bishop Terence Drainey and the trustees do not support it. Despite the best efforts of the Department of Education the new school was required to have Catholic values and standards stated clearly in its proposals, which it did not.

“There are 1,600 pupils at St Mary’s so there is no demand for a Catholic free school.”

Fr Derek Turnham, another spokesman at the diocese, said today: “At no time did the diocese make the decision or reflect that it would support the free school.

“It supported the ongoing dialogue and investigation, but it was when failure to answer difficult questions and discrepancies between those involved in discussion arose, that it became clear that the bishop and diocese could not support the school,” he said.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “We really felt there was merit in the proposal but always knew it had to sit comfortably with the bishop. After all, it is his school and we respect that.”

McAuley College Academy was to be built next to St Mary’s but as an autonomous school with a separate head teacher and governors. It was not going to be a Catholic school as St Mary’s already provides secondary education to Catholic children in the area – 70 per cent of its pupils are Catholic.