28 April 2016, The Tablet

Relief at government assurance on academies

Catholic school leaders say that a new agreement amounts to an unprecedented acknowledgement by the Government that the Church must retain control of its schools when they become academies, writes Rose Gamble.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and the Catholic Education Service (CES) sets out how they will work together in the run-up to all state schools becoming academies by 2020. A key government assurance is to protect the religious character of schools by acknowledging canon law, which states that for a school to be a Catholic school “the Catholic Church must retain control of  governance”.

Mike Craven, a governor at the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Holland Park, west London, described this acknowledgment as “unprecedented”, adding that the document makes 16 references to canon law. The memorandum, said Mr Craven, was “helpful” in enshrining the role of the CES and diocesan education commissions as main conduits for discussions between Government and Church. However, he pointed out that the document does not address the issue of the admissions cap. Under current government policy all new schools, which must be academies, have to cap numbers of children from a particular faith background at 50 per cent. “No Catholic schools are being opened because that cap applies,” said Mr Craven.

John Murray, head teacher of the Catholic High School, a secondary in Chester, and organiser of the National Catholic Secondary School Leaders conference, said the document protects the identity of Catholic schools.

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