Appeal made to support plan to lift schools 50% faith cap

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Appeal made to support plan to lift schools 50% faith cap

The decision by the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, to lift the faith-based admissions cap on new free schools in England has been welcomed by the Diocese of East Anglia schools team, which is urging people to give their support to the move through a government consultation which closes on June 20.

The decision paves the way for Catholic free schools to open, having previously been excluded under the 50% cap or ‘rule’ which could have forced schools to turn away some Catholic pupils.

The Government has opened a consultation on two proposed changes to the admission arrangements of new faith schools. Firstly to lift the 50% cap on faith-based admissions to new faith schools and, secondly, to allow new special schools to have a faith designation

Helen Bates, Assistant Director of Schools for the Diocese of East Anglia, said: “We welcome this consultation. The Diocese covers some of the fastest growing areas in England, particularly in Cambridgeshire and around Peterborough. In 2019, the Diocese made the only successful submission to the Government’s new voluntary-aided school programme which it ran only once. This resulted in the opening of St John Henry Newman Catholic Primary School in Peterborough in 2022.

“Since 2019, whilst there has been a national reduction in the overall number of primary-aged pupils, some areas within the Diocese are still seeing pressure on places particularly in the older primary age groups, and most of our secondary schools are over-subscribed. Significant house building in some parts of the Diocese has increased demand for school places but the Diocese has not been able to open new Catholic schools to serve these housing developments because of the 50% cap.

“Catholic schools promote the formation of the whole child and are well placed to meet the diverse needs of all children, including those with special educational needs and disabilities. (SEND). The 2024 CES Census shows that the level of SEND in Diocese of East Anglia schools is above the national average for England and all of our local authorities have all published plans to expand their SEND provision as demand increases year-on-year.

“However, current policy means it is not possible for an existing or new special school to have a faith designation. Not only does this mean that the Diocese cannot open Catholic special schools, but it also means that existing special schools in our area cannot benefit from the support of our two Diocesan Trusts, and our Trusts cannot utilise the significant SEND expertise within these special schools,” said Helen.

“The Government’s consultation is open for seven weeks, closing on June 20. These proposals will only be accepted by the Government if they see a high level of support through the consultation process. The Diocese would encourage everyone within the Catholic community to respond positively to this consultation before the deadline.”

The consultation can be found at

Pictured above is the St John Henry Newman Catholic Primary School opened by the diocese in Peterborough in 2022.