But head of CES warns that free schools and new academy schools will only be able to select half of their pupils on the basis of faith

The bishops of England and Wales will address the issue of Catholic academies and free schools at their plenary meeting next month, according to the head of the Catholic Education Service (CES).

Oona Stannard, chief executive and director of the CES, said: “It is likely that the issue of academies and free schools will be a major item on the agenda of the bishops’ conference for their November meeting.”

In a letter to Catholic head teachers Miss Stannard said she had had a number of meetings with Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, about Catholic schools becoming academies.

But she said the decision of whether to turn voluntary-aided schools into academies would be taken by the bishops alone.

She said it would involve “deliberations about the mission of our schools and our vision for education”.

She added: “Current feedback from bishops indicates that they are very mindful of the notion of a family of Catholic schools, also of the relationship with local authorities, and of any impact on other schools.

“At the same time, however, careful consideration is being given to the benefits that could accompany becoming an academy,” Miss Stannard said.

In her letter Miss Stannard said that new academy schools, if oversubscribed, would be forced to select half of their pupils without any reference to faith.

But a spokesman for the Department for Education said this applied only to free schools and to academy schools “starting from scratch”. Catholic schools converting to academy status would not be forced to change their admissions criteria.