19 May 2015, The Tablet

Bishops hope new Government will lift admissions cap on academies

The Church in England and Wales is hopeful that the new Conservative Government will lift the faith-school admissions cap on academies.

Under the last Coalition Government, the Liberal Democrats insisted that new academies run by the Church would not be allowed to admit more than 50 per cent of pupils on the grounds of faith if they become oversubscribed.

The Catholic Education Service (CES) has lobbied hard to get the cap removed with the Archbishop of Liverpool, chairman of the CES, raising the matter personally with Michael Gove, when he was Secretary of State for Education.

The Church says the cap prohibits it from opening new academies although a number of Catholic schools have been converted into academies. Academy schools are attractive to dioceses as they have autonomy over their budgets and elements of their governance.

Now that the Conservatives are in government without the Liberal Democrats the bishops hope the cap may be looked at again, said Greg Pope, the head of Parliamentary Relations for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

“The 50 per cent admissions cap on faith academies was in the coalition agreement and but isn’t really a Conservative policy,” said Mr Pope. “We hope that with a Conservative Government it will be revisited, and it is something that my colleagues in the CES have raised with ministers.”

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