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Catholic schools asked to drop words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ from admissions forms

Catholic schools will be asked to remove the terms “mother” and “father” from admissions forms, after a government ruling that the terms could be too restrictive.

The Catholic Education Service has said that it will be asking schools to comply with a “unified approach” under which admissions forms omit the words. However, bishops will have the final decision over whether to accept the request for schools in the diocese.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles admissions disputes on behalf of the government, made the ruling after a complaint against a Catholic primary school.

A parent had objected that Holy Ghost Catholic primary school in Wandsworth, south-west London, had discriminated against “separated, step and gay parents” in its use of the terms.

Peter Goringe, one of the 12 schools adjudicators, upheld the complaint, saying: “In the absence of any clarification of the term ‘parent’, the use of the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ might, as the objector suggests, be taken to imply that the school is restricting its definition.”

Many Catholic schools have already replaced the terms with “parent 1” and “parent 2”, according to the Sunday Times.

A spokesman for the Catholic Education Service said: “We expect all Catholic schools to comply with the school admissions code and we work closely with dioceses and the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to ensure this happens.”

The spokesman added that “we have been working closely with dioceses and the OSA to develop a Certificate of Catholic Practice. This aims to produce a unified approach to admissions for all Catholic schools and which fully complies with the code.”

Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research at Buckingham University, criticised the ruling, telling the Sunday Times: “Our society is based on families and the great majority have a father and a mother. If there is only one parent, only fill in that bit of the form.”