Bishop Peter Collins backs campaign to “scrap the cap”

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Bishop Peter Collins backs campaign to “scrap the cap”

Bishop Peter Collins and several Catholic bishops in England have added their support to the Catholic Union’s campaign to scrap the cap on faith-based admissions to new free schools.

The Catholic Union, which launched the campaign earlier this summer, is encouraging people to add their names to an open letter calling for the cap to be lifted. Almost 600 people have already signed the letter to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan MP.

Bishop Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds, and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service, said he was “pleased to support the new campaign launched by Catholic Union to lift the 50 percent admissions cap on new free schools with a religious designation.”

Other Bishops to have backed the campaign so far include Archbishop Bernard Longley; Archbishop of Birmingham, Bishop Peter Collins; Bishop of East Anglia, and Bishop Paul Swarbrick; Bishop of Lancaster.

The 50 percent cap on faith-based admissions applies to oversubscribed free schools with a religious character in England. Introduced by the Coalition Government in 2010, the cap has made it impossible for Catholic Bishops to sanction new Catholic free schools as it would lead to pupils being turned away on the basis of their Catholic faith.

The Catholic Union, along with the Catholic Education Service and others, has been calling for the policy to be reversed since it was first introduced. The 2017 Conservative manifesto committed to lifting the cap, but this was never achieved.

As well as making Catholic education more widely available, the letter to the Education Secretary says that lifting the cap “would help boost morale” in a sector that has struggled with pay and conditions and the pressure of inspections.

Rt Rev Marcus Stock, Chairman of the Catholic Education Service, comments: “The Catholic community has long been a valued partner to successive governments, and since the 19th century has become the second-largest education provider in the country. We seek to maintain parental choice and ensure that, particularly where schools are oversubscribed, Catholic parents can provide a Catholic education for their children in a Catholic school. The Catholic Education Service, the Catholic Union, and all those who benefit from the diversity provided by our Catholic school sector, regard it as vital that the admissions cap is lifted.”

Professor John Lydon, Chairman of the Catholic Union’s Education Committee, adds: “This letter is a very important initiative from the Catholic Union. There is a bright future for Catholic schools in this country, but we need to be honest about the challenges we face. One of those challenges is the cap on faith-based admissions. It has without doubt restricted access to Catholic education in England and prevented the Church from realising the benefits of the academisation programme currently underway. The letter to the Secretary of State is a timely intervention and I encourage people to add their names in support.”