10 April 2014, The Tablet

Muslim-dominated Catholic primary to become Anglican academy

A Catholic primary school dominated by Muslim pupils is to become a Church of England academy, in the first switch of this kind.

Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Primary School in Blackburn will move away from the control of the council and instead be sponsored from September by the Cidari Trust, set up by the Anglican Diocese of Blackburn to run academies.

A spokesman for the diocese of Salford, which currently oversees the school, said it is “no longer fulfilling its responsibility” to its trust deed as a Catholic school providing education for Catholic children.

Sacred Heart had a minority of Catholic pupils for years. In 2009 there were only seven, the vast majority of children being Muslim, while two years earlier, a diocesan inspection found that the “reduced number of Catholic learners on roll is seriously affecting the school’s ability to provide a traditional Catholic education”. There are today 190 pupils at the school, of whom almost all – 95-98 per cent – are Muslim.

The move to become an academy follows six months of talks between the two dioceses. Canon Tony McBride, responsible for schools and colleges in the Diocese of Salford, said the “complicated” move was needed because of “no demand” for Catholic schooling in the area. “Over the past 10 or 15 years, gradually the number of Roman Catholic children has dwindled in this area of Blackburn,” he said.

“We welcome [the move] as it serves the particular needs of this part of Blackburn in a way Sacred Heart obviously didn’t. They will have a slightly different RE syllabus, but the children won’t see much of a difference.”

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