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UK News

Plans for first Catholic school in nearly a decade get go ahead from Peterborough Council

by Heather Preston

Peterborough Council has given the go ahead for a new Catholic primary school which, if opened, would become the first fully religiously selective faith school to be established with Government funding in almost a decade.

The decision was made by the Peterborough Council lead member for education on Thursday, but it may be subject to further scrutiny from councillors.

In 2018 the Department for Education chose to back 90 per cent of the costs needed for voluntary aided faith school, whilst maintaining a 50 per cent on religious admissions to faith free schools.

In June 2019 the department revealed that the proposed Peterborough primary school was the first plan for a new voluntary aided faith school that it had approved funding for ‘in principle’.

Faith schools of this kind are maintained by the local authority and are free to prioritise pupils based on their religious views without any government-enforced cap.

However, as a gesture of inclusivity, the Diocese of Peterborough has said it will allocate 20 per cent of places without religious bias in its first year, if it opens.

Chair of the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Reverend Stephen Terry is against the proposed plans. He believes opening such schools promotes segregation rather than integration.

He said: “The 50 per cent religious selection cap at faith free schools has been popular and worked well, signalling that the schools should bring people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds together. By facilitating the opening of faith schools that can be fully religiously selective, the Government is sullying its own record and undermining pledges to improve integration.

“The Government should not be bending over backwards to please various narrow and divisive religious lobbies, but expanding the 50 per cent cap to all other state-funded faith schools, as a route to making the school system more religiously inclusive. Opening instead fully selective faith schools is a historic error and completely at odds with the needs of our increasingly diverse society.”

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