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Bishops urge Gove to drop admissions cap for new academies

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary (Photo: PA)

The bishops’ conference has urged the Government to drop its rule that a new academy school or free school can only select half of its pupils on the grounds of faith.

During their plenary meeting the bishops agreed that a 50 per cent cap on pupils chosen because of their faith was “not a secure basis” for a Catholic school.

In a statement released today the bishops’ conference said it will urge dioceses “to resist any pressure to establish a school on that basis”.

Last year the Education Secretary Michael Gove said he had no intention of relaxing the 50 per cent cap.

Catholic schools that are not free schools or new academy schools are allowed to select all of their pupils on the grounds of faith.

The Catholic Church runs one free school, St Michael’s in Truro, which is bound by the 50 per cent cap.

Dennis Sewell, chairman of a new free school in Clapham, south London, called Trinity Academy, said last month he had been “alarmed by the vehement hostility” of Church officials to Mr Gove’s reforms. His school, inspired by a Catholic ethos, will also be limited by the 50 per cent cap.

Statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales:

The bishops’ conference recognises that, in the circumstances prevailing in England and Wales, the conditions required to ensure a distinctive Catholic education remain the ownership of the school or college site, the appointment of the majority of governors, admissions arrangements, the RE curriculum and its inspection, worship and the employment of staff.

Accordingly, the bishops’ conference takes the view that the imposition of a 50 per cent cap on the control of admissions is not a secure basis for the provision of a Catholic school and urges dioceses to resist any pressure to establish a school on that basis.

The bishops’ conference mandates the Catholic Education Service to continue to press the government and politicians to modify this policy so that it no longer places a disproportionate disadvantage on the Catholic community.

A further story on the bishops’ plenary meeting this week will be available shortly.