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No mention of Catholic schools promise in Queen’s Speech

Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales attend the State Opening Of Parliament in the House of Lords on June 21, 2017 (Getty Images)

A key Conservative pledge that would have allowed the Catholic Church to open new schools has been left out of the Queen’s Speech.

The party had promised in their manifesto to abolish the “unfair and ineffective” admissions cap that forces new faith schools to recruit only 50 per cent of their intake on the basis of religion.

As canon law says that Catholics must give priority to children from the faith, the regulation effectively prevents the Church from opening new academies and free schools in England and Wales.

Theresa May’s government first promised to remove the cap in September 2016. The party then reiterated the policy in its manifesto for the 2017 General Election.

The manifesto said:

We will replace the unfair and ineffective inclusivity rules that prevent the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools, instead requiring new faith schools to prove that parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school.

However, the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday – setting out the government’s legislative agenda for the next couple of years – did not mention the proposal.

Following the inconclusive election result earlier this month, the government has dropped several policies that featured its manifesto, most notably its controversial social care proposals.

While the absence of the faith schools policy from the Queen’s Speech does not necessarily mean it has been abandoned, it does suggest the issue has moved down the government’s agenda.

When the policy was first announced last year, a source in Downing Street said the cap “prevented new Catholic schools from opening, which are more successful, more popular and more ethnically diverse than other types of state school.”

Responding to the Queen’s Speech, the Catholic Education Service said: “We welcomed the Government’s plan to remove the 50 per cent admissions cap when it was announced by the Prime Minister last September, and we were pleased to see a cast iron commitment to this in the Conservative Party manifesto.”