The first Catholic free school in Britain is to cut its link with the Church.
St Michael’s in Camborne, the only Catholic secondary in Cornwall, opened in 2012 but the Catholic parents who set it up say they cannot afford to continue. It will now be taken over by the Camborne Science and International Academy, and will no longer have church affiliation.
Separately, the head teacher has resigned and has been investigated by the Diocese of Plymouth. It emerged this week that a number of teachers at the school raised grievances against head teacher Neil Anderson, who subsequently resigned “for personal reasons”. David Guiterman of the Cornwall branch of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said staff wrote to the chair of governors and requested that Plymouth diocese launch an investigation, which it subsequently did. He said he had not seen the results of the investigation, which was carried out in the autumn of last year.
When it opened, St Michael’s was heralded as a new chapter in Catholic education in Cornwall, a county where the Church’s education system has always been patchy. The Department for Education bought an old grammar school as its premises, at a cost of about £700,000.
But from the start it has been controversial, with local politicians claiming the purchase was “an absurd waste of taxpayers’ money”. Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Graham Walker said there was no demand for it, and that Cornwall already had 8,000 secondary school places that were not being taken up.
But the Catholic parents who set it up said it would increase choice, which parents in other counties took for granted.
Free schools are not usually supported because of a central cap on Catholic admissions, but because of the lack of any church schools at all in the region an exception was made for St Michael’s.
The Tablet has made attempts to contact Mr Anderson for a response.