13 December 2016, The Tablet

Diocese of East Anglia in bid for eight new Catholic schools

The relaxation of the admissions cap was identified as one way to encourage the growth of more Catholic schools

The Catholic Diocese of East Anglia will open eight new schools “straight away” if the Government lifts a 50 per cent faith admissions cap, a spokesperson from the Diocese has said.

In September Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to scrap the current cap that prohibits oversubscribed faith schools from selecting more than half of their intake on the basis of religion.

The relaxation of the rules was identified as one way to encourage the growth of more Catholic schools, which tend to slightly outperform their non-faith state school counterparts. The Government has been consulting on the issue and its conclusions are due shortly.

The areas of East Anglia where the new schools are being proposed are those with some of the highest need for places in the country and where possible sites for the schools have already been identified.

The Diocese wants to establish a high school and a primary school in West Cambourne and another primary in the Cherry Hinton area of Cambridgeshire, as well as establishing a new primary school in Peterborough.

A new Catholic primary school is also being proposed in Thetford and two primaries and a possible sixth form college are planned for Norwich. In addition, the Sacred Heart Convent School in Swaffham is considering proposals for a new free school as well as possible expansion plans.

Assistant Director for the Schools Commission for the Diocese of East Anglia, Helen Bates, said: “For the Catholic Church, the cap has meant it has been unable to open any new Catholic schools in case it results in Catholic children being turned away from a Catholic school. In East Anglia we have some of the most severe shortages of places, which is why we want to bid for so many new schools.”

Director of the Catholic Education Service, Paul Barber, said he “warmly welcomed” the announcement from the Diocese and hoped the cap is lifted so that the high demand for a Catholic education could be met.

The Diocese’s bid for new schools will go to the Department for Education and if successful, the earliest a new school will open will be September 2019.

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