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New Schools – answers to some common questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the Diocese of East Anglia's plans, first announced in December 2016, to submit applications for up to eight new Catholic free schools across Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

Why has there been no recent news on the plans to open new Catholic schools?

Our plans to submit applications for new schools were put on hold once a general election was announced in 2017. Up to then we had made good progress on our bids and had even had some mock interviews in London with the New Schools' Network which supports applicants in preparing their bids and opening new schools. Since the general election, we have been waiting for an announcement from Government about the next bidding round for free schools and a decision on the removal of the cap on faith admissions which was pledged in the Conservative Party manifesto. We are still awaiting these announcements

Where would the new schools be?

Whilst we want new schools in Norwich, Cambridge, Thetford and Peterborough, the decision on exactly where the new schools will be rests with the Department for Education. Their decision will be based on where there is need for more places and a Catholic need, but also on where new free schools have already been allocated and the sites that are available.

At the moment we have suggested possible sites in West Cambourne for a primary and secondary school, Cherry Hinton in Cambridge for a primary, in the Hamptons in Peterborough and in north Thetford, both for primaries. We also want primary schools in central and north Norwich as well as a sixth form in Norwich, but we haven't identified a site for these yet.

When will you know if your bids for new schools have been successful?

This depends on when we hear from Government about the admissions faith cap and the procedure for opening new schools. That procedure will outline timescales and when we know these, we'll update these FAQs.

When will the new schools open?

Again, this depends on the timescales announced by Government, but it takes a long time to open a new school, especially getting planning permission. Our best estimate is at least 2 A? years for a primary school and 3 A? for a secondary school, once the Department for Education has given approval for the schools to be opened.

How big will the schools be?

At the moment we think the primary schools will have 60 places in each year group. However, it's unlikely to start with all year groups being open. We think we'll open the younger year groups straight away and then grow the school one year group at a time. We also hope the new schools will have a nursery, but all of these decisions will need to be made with the Department for Education's agreement and will depend on how many children there are in the area at the time the school opens.

Can my child get a place at one of the new schools?

Admissions to any of the new schools has to follow the law, known as the Admissions Code of Practice. In a Catholic school, if there are more children wanting to go to the school than there are places available, priority will be given to baptised Catholic children and then on the basis of who lives the nearest to the school. School places cannot be reserved for Catholics if a place is available and there isn't a Catholic who wants that place.

However, if you would be interested in your child going to one of the schools, please sign up on our register of interest as this could help in making our case to the Department for Education to allow us to open these schools. You can do this at https://rcdea.org.uk/freeschools/