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Archbishop McMahon: Catholic Church is ‘not anti-grammar schools’

Archbishop of Liverpool Malcolm McMahon presides at Mass (Mazur/

The Catholic Church is open to the idea of creating new grammar schools, the Archbishop of Liverpool has said.

In an interview with The Guardian, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon said the church is “not anti-grammar schools”, explaining that there are already seven Catholic grammars and the church welcomes “diversity of provision that promotes parental choice”.

The archbishop, who chairs the Catholic Education Service (CES), which oversees the church’s 2,230 schools in England and Wales, said the decision to open new grammar schools would be taken by individual diocesan authorities.

In a wide-ranging interview, Archbishop McMahon also defended the church’s policy of favouring children from Catholic families, pointing out that canon law forbids schools from turning them away in favour of non-Catholics.

Contrasting this with the Anglican position, he said: “The Church of England runs schools for the wider community. Ours are different. They are for the Catholic community.”

Defending parental choice and taxpayer funding of new Catholic free schools, the archbishop said it was “fundamental” that parents had right to educate their children as they see fit.

Last year, the government relaxed restrictions preventing oversubscribed Catholic schools from selecting more than half their intake on the basis of faith. The admissions cap had effectively stopped the church opening new schools.

Moving on to the topic of sex education, the archbishop said Christian teaching is “at the centre of our schools” and that teachers would “encourage debate and present arguments” for natural methods of family planning.

When asked if any children had same-sex parents, he replied: “Why would same-sex parents want to send their children to a Catholic school?

“But if they did, we would treat them and their children with respect.”