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Gove: I won’t relax rules on Catholic free schools

By on Thursday, 26 July 2012

Michael Gove has been appointed Conservative Chief Whip (PA)

Michael Gove has been appointed Conservative Chief Whip (PA)

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has said he has no plans to relax the rule which means that no more than half of places in free schools may be reserved for Catholics.

In an exclusive interview with The Catholic Herald Mr Gove said that he was not prepared to lift the cap, regardless of demands from Catholic parents hoping to take advantage of the new scheme.

He said: “Remember, there’s no reason why a new school with only 50 per cent Catholic students shouldn’t have a wholly Catholic ethos. Of course, by definition, free schools are free to choose their own curriculum.

“Traditionally, Catholic schools have been concentrated in certain parts of the country. But Catholic parents who want a Catholic education for their children now have a way of providing it. Free schools are a way of increasing capacity, not limiting it.”

The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CES) said that retaining a maximum quota on Catholic intake undermined parental choice.
Responding to Mr Gove’s comments a spokeswoman for the CES said: “Our chairman, Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP, said before the 2010 General Election that he was interested in the idea of free schools established by local communities but after the election the Coalition Agreement introduced the 50 per cent quota on places for Catholic pupils and this has proved problematic for our sector.

“The 50 per cent quota policy undermines the Government’s own aim of increasing parental choice, since, in the case of an oversubscribed Catholic free school, Catholic pupils whose parents wanted to send them to a Catholic school would have to be turned away because they were Catholic.”

Dennis Sewell, a lay Catholic who is in the early stages of establishing a Catholic free school in Clapham, south London said: “I think Michael Gove is right. If governors and school leaders face up to the challenge, they can ensure that the inclusion of non-Catholic pupils does not dilute the Catholic character of a school.

“What really matters is that the Catholic faith is a reality at the heart of the school, permeating the curriculum, teaching and learning, the behaviour code and all the various social interactions of school life.”

Some Catholic parents who were hoping to take advantage of the free school scheme were put off by the quota rule. Opus Dei is sponsoring two new Catholic schools in London but is not using the free schools initiative.

In the interview, Mr Gove also praised Pope Benedict, calling him “a wholly authentic figure”. He also described the Catholic Church’s role in education as “global and enduring”.

The full interview can be read in this week’s paper.

  • Meriadoc

    It’s surely true that it’s not the number of (often nominally) Catholic pupils which makes the school Catholic, but the vision and authentic faith of the Head and staff.

  • Guest

    Im curious to know Mr Gove does this 50 percent quota also apply to islamic schools and other religious education bodies out there? Or is it a case of one rule for them and one rule for us? limited it to 50 percent this is simply a ploy by the government to try and get our future catholic children to leave the restricting it to 50 percent this means some Catholic parents will be made to place their children in the public education system where it is well known they secularise the minds and souls of children from a young age. Its like a conveyor belt generation after generation of filling them with liberal ideologies along not to mention sexualising their minds with their sex education programmes. You cannot blame them when these generations attack us and criticise our faith because theyv been brainwashed and had their minds shaped by the secular system and are not aware of the errors of their ways (the dictatorship or relativism).

    And they say we religious people indoctrinate our children? honestly give me a break! they claim that we should all think for ourselves in their systems but infact they want us to think the way they do and the public education system is where they indoctrinate the children of this country because the younger they are the easier it is to mould their minds and the devil uses this to his advantage..our Catholic schools musn’t buy into what the government tries to enforce on us because although they wont admit it, thats what they want to do, they want us to waterdown the Catholic ethos n our schools because thats how they infiltrate our organisations (Obama has tried doing it in america with his healthcare plans), the devil is a cunning figure and we musnt buy into everything the government says or tries to impose on us. Christ promised us the gates of hell shall not prevail!

  • Guest1

    The rule applies to every religion so stop Muslim bashing, and you should be grateful that state funds are being used for Catholic ethos schools when in some parts of the country there is a dire shortage of places and families of no faith are being forced to attend schools of religious character.

  • la catholic state

    Um…..Catholics want Catholic schools paid by Catholic taxes.  So nobody is doing us any favours as you imply!

  • Guest1

    Exclusive admissions policies, if only 50% exclusive, paid for by all taxpayers have no place  in a modern progressive society where resources and funds are scarce.  Would you suggest the same for the NHS?

  • la catholic state

    Catholics want Catholic schools which reflect their beliefs…paid for by Catholic taxes.  What’s wrong with that.  In a so-called modern progressive society….state funded secular schools are becoming little more than propoganda centres for anti-Christian values where real education is often woeful.  Best not to bother with them if possible…..and that goes for everybody.

    As for the NHS….yes I really wish it were possible to have Catholic hospitals run on Catholic principles….for everybody.  God Willing.

  • John Jackson

    Michael Gove’s requirement for a 50 % cap on Catholic Students should be no obstacle for a school to maintain a clear and consistent Catholic ethos.  I am a governor at a private Catholic school, with a good percentage of non-Catholic students and the abiding and real Catholic ethos of the school is apparent to all and is one of the draws of the school.  With good leadership from the head and governors, any school can bring excellence in education and a clear witness of what is means to be a Catholic Christian to those it serves.  One of the first Catholic schools to be allowed to exist in the country was in London, I believe and in either the 17th or 18thc, and had as one of its main ideas, a diverse student enrollment, a school open to all regardless of whether or not they are Catholic.  The issue is not the students at the school, but the leadership. 

  • moveWithTheTimes

    The CES spokesperson is very wrong to say “in the case of an oversubscribed Catholic free school, Catholic pupils whose parents wanted to send them to a Catholic school would have to be turned away because they were Catholic”.  The Catholic pupils would have priority access to 50% of the places, and EQUAL access to the other 50%.  Catholics would be able to apply for the open places along with everyone else.

  • Guest1

    Ah but that’s the problem once you start to apply admissions criteria based on faith then services aren’t ‘for everybody’, there’s a pecking order and as far as I can see Catholics like to be ‘first’.  If on the other hand you are suggesting that access to state funded services should be based on ‘need’ rather than the group that you belong to then we’ve found something that we agree on.  

    Your comment about state funded schools is both misguided and simply not true.  Have you looked at the National Curriculum lately?

  • la catholic state

    But that’s the whole purpose of a Catholic school….to educate Catholic children.  And the whole purpose of a secular school is to educate secularism to all children.

    I look at the material being taught in state funded schools (Catholic ones too)…and I can tell you a lot of it is biased, propoganda based, non-Christian ideology.  Happily though…a lot of it passes right over the heads of many pupils.  But the Church should make its voice louder…to counteract this Christ-free brand of ‘education’.

  • orthodoxpriest

    I hope that Catholic schools will consider prioritising Orthodox children, who share a great deal of the same Christian ethos as Catholics and are well able to contribute to that ethos in the schools they attend. I am very glad that my own son is able to attend a local Catholic secondary school, and cannot commend it too highly. I would hope that any planned Catholic Free schools would consider encouraging local Orthodox to attend, not only for the contribution they can make, but because this will allow a significant proportion of pupils to share the same Catholic/Orthodox ethos.

  • Yankee D

    How the government there is Britain is intrusive. In the US private schools can admit or reject who ever they wish as political correctness though control can’t be imposed on institutions that do not receive government  money. The problem is that in Britain churches have been too intertwined with the government for centuries. How about Britain becoming a real democracy by disestablishing the Church of England, and Catholic churches weened off the government funding  and then being allowed to do what they please?

  • Yankee D

    PS. tax money for public schools should be returned to parents in the form of school vouchers where parents can send their kids to whatever school they choose including Catholic schools.

  • Lewispbuckingham

     Yes, funding for pupils should be returned to parents so they can choose the school they want.A voucher system is a good start.This then makes all the problems of government control of funding less of an issue.Start with a basic per capita grant.
     Also, how do you define a Catholic? Clearly this policy is not all that bad.In OZ non catholics flock to Catholic schools for the ethos and discipline.

  • Proteios1

    You need some cheese with that whine. Merely asking about other religions when they lack of thoroughness in describing such details (which permeates journalism) is not bashing anyone. It’s asking the question that should have been answered by the reporter. Seriously. Get over yourself.

  • Christopher Squire

    The ‘rule’ is an Act of Parliament, which Gove has no discretion to ‘relax’; all new schools in England must obey it, like it or, not except in Richmond borough where a new voluntary aided Catholic school is planned, if a judicial review finds the way it was set up to evade the Act of Parliament to be lawful. If it does, it will no doubt be known as the ‘Richmond fiddle’.

  • Jackson

    I hope these new schools recover from our past the tradition of beautiful architecture as a means to  both educate and inspire. Too many contemporary schools are prison like.

  • Mark Hawkes

    I would be embarrassed being associated with the Catholic church. Or any church for that matter. History will judge religious people poorly. Some charitable work does not undo all the evil elements (and there are many) 

  • JabbaPapa

    Will there also be a 50% maximum intake imposed upon the admission of children with atheist parents and those of “no religion” ?

  • Patrick_Hadley

    I have looked but could not find any reference to 50% non-Catholics in the Academies Act 2010 or the Education Act 2011. I suspect that this figure does not occur anywhere in the Acts as passed by Parliament. I wonder if you can show me that I am wrong out by finding it?

    In most legislation nowadays Acts of Parliament are drafted to allow the Secretary of State to use statutory instruments to make detailed regulations saying just about whatever they want, whenever they want, with no further reference to Parliament.

    If that is what has happened in this case (and I would be interested to be shown that my assumption is false) then the 50% is the law of the land, but only because Michael Gove has said so. If so then a success or of his at the Education Ministry could change that figure to 25% or anything else with a stroke of his pen.

  • Guest

    Gove isa key proponent of Same Sex ‘Marriage’ and will stop at nothing to bypass democracy and impose it. As Education Secretary he is working closely with Stonewall to impose Queer Theory on schoolchildren. 

  • MoveWithTheTimes

    Families should choose schools.  Schools should not choose families.  The law says that new academies must allocate 50% of their places “without reference to faith”.  That doesn’t mean that children with faith can’t apply to those 50% (as well as the other 50% to which they already have priority).

    Most CofE schools already do this.  They designate a percentage of faith places reserved for churchgoers, and the remaining places are open to everyone (usually prioritised on distance).  Anyone who applies for a faith place and doesn’t get one is automatically considered for an open place too.  The schools usually end up with more churchgoers than the number of reserved places.

    The Catholic Education Service is behind the times on this and is the only faith that is dragging its heels.

    To the OrthodoxPriest who commented earlier ….  presumably you already know about this Orthodox school, which is proud to be opening in North London in 2013 and happy to have 50% of its places open to all :

  • TreenonPoet

    What is the justification for Catholic schools being able to discriminate against non-Catholic parents?

    (a) If the state somehow managed to provide the number of Catholic school places that exactly matched the demand (whether from Catholics or non-Catholics), there would presumably be no reason to activate any quota system. All taxpayers who wanted to send their children to a Catholic school would be able to.
    (b) If the state had provided too many places, there would still be no need for a quota system.
    (c) If the state had provided too few places, why should those who claim to be practicing Catholics get privileged access?

    In response to (c), you might suggest that non-Catholic parents would not be so put-out by not being able to send their children to a Catholic school as Catholic parents would be, but how would you know this? An Ipsos MORI poll shows that a majority of Christians in England and Wales do not think that schools should be biased towards one religion, so the motivation for wanting to send a child to a Catholic school will not always be primarily religious. OK, that still leaves a fraction who want to send their children to a Catholic school to receive an ‘education’ biased towards the Catholic religion (however unfair this might be for the uncommitted child)…

    I can see why a school might prefer to have a quota system that requires parents to jump through hoops (eg. attend church) because that would be the covert selection of parents who are more likely to encourage their children. Schools would be unlikely to point to that to explain their success, just as David Cameron doesn’t. So the only excuse for a quota system is, in effect, an admission that ‘faith’ schools have a religious bias and are intended to cater for those parents who wish their children to be indoctrinated accordingly.

    It is no secret that successive governments have supported religious indoctrination (which they refer to as ‘spritual development’ – the words used by Gordon Brown in justifying the compulsory facilitation of collective worship, and the words used in the DfE guidance regarding RE in schools. Religious indoctrination is intellectual child abuse and it is scandalous that it is being funded by taxpayers’ money.

    I have no children. I am happy that a large portion of the taxes that I pay goes towards education. Not a penny of it should go towards miseducation, including religious indoctrination. Parents are not entitled to expect the state to fund the religious indoctrination of their children, let alone benefit from the privilege of places reserved for those of their religion. Such quotas should be abolished.

  • formerly_Henrick_Maundey-__666

    You as Cathoilc parents should not be selfish – please hear me out – because you are converting non Catholic children to take up the Catholic faith sometime in their life because of them going to a Catholic School. In fact it is good for some of your children in strong faith Catholic families to end up in a non Catholic school because they see the big wide world, the world they’re going to have to face anyway. I know it’s frustrating for parents, and I personally would have loved to have gone to a Catholic School, but the governments policy indirectly works for the Churches greater good.

  • scary goat

    Several points come to mind on this issue.  Firstly, catholics are tax payers too and our tax money is used for a lot of things we might not like. When people say why should “the state” pay for catholic education, they seem to forget that “the state” gets its money from the people, and quite a large percentage of those people are catholic.  Also, Catholic schools are subsidised by the Church….which means the church-going catholics who pay in to Church funds.  I don’t think anyone objects to “spare” places being given to non-catholics, in fact, as another poster pointed out, it is an opportunity to open people’s eyes to the Catholic faith.  Also, I can’t help wondering why non-catholics would be so keen to go to Catholic schools.  In the case of other Christian denominations who don’t have their own schools, I can see what the attraction might be, even the same might apply to other religious groups, but I really can’t see what the attraction would be for the secular minded.  Because the Catholic schools provide a good education and good results?  Standards of behaviour and discipline? Good atmosphere and relationships between pupils and staff?  Why do they find our Catholic schools attractive?  Better than the state school down the road? What’s missing from the state school?  Why can’t they find what they want there?  Does it not occur to anyone that our schools are attractive BECAUSE they are CATHOLIC?  Why the need for a 50% cap?  Why are people so eager to get places in our Catholic schools when they are not interested in the Catholic faith? It seems to me that some people are not seeing the wood for the trees.  If secular values are so great, why aren’t the state schools more attractive than the Catholic schools?  And as for exclusive/discriminatory admissions policies, seeing as people are so keen to get in to Catholic schools, as they must be, otherwise why the 50% cap, why not hand over the whole education system to the Church as they seem to be doing so well and let everyone in?  I’m sure the Holy Father would be pleased with such an arrangement.

  • m francis

    paranoia at its best.   Typical atheist/secularist(same thing really) view of hundreds of thousands of people whose self sacrifice to help others across the world is conveniently ignored whilst the wrong doing of a few hundred priests out of hundreds of thousands of priests over a 25yr period are mentioned over and over again. 

  • m francis

    This is only justifiable as long as Catholic students arent being refused entry. Whenever I hear the words diversity and equality, which are used as an excuse to dilute the tenets of our faith and of course are used by the state as a means of indoctrinating our children into believing that the permissive nature of our society is right, it tells me all I need to know about the writer.  I can guess what your views are on gay marriage and relationships.  Some Catholic head.

  • whytheworldisending

    One of the most powerful influences affecting the personal development of children, and shaping their attitudes and values is peer pressure. Catholic moral  teaching represents the gold standard, but pupils come to school with attitudes and values learnt outside of school, and these often pollute the ethos which the school hopes to maintain and parents wish their children to internalise. Unfortunately even in a Catholic school with 100% catholic admissions, many pupils are not practising Catholics, with parents who live out atheistic and materialistic values, and send their children to Catholic school in order to keep their grandparents happy. Schools generally are a breeding ground for atheism insofar as they are geared to satisfying commercial interests and teach competitive materialistic consumerism under the guise of “seeking excellence.” True, some Heads and teachers valiantly attempt to swim against the tide, but there is a sense in which the “Catholic School” is becoming a contradiction in terms, since children are not able to swim against the tide of peer pressure once it swells over their heads. Gove’s 50% limit wil simply open the floodgates and cause a torrent of pressure to conform to the depraved and corrupt values we see all around us in secular society, which children will not be able to swim against. Catholic parents will soon have no choice but to swim ashore by keeping their children at home if standards of morality continue to fall since Gove is essentially making the Free School option unavailable to genuine Catholics who wish to bring their children up in accordance with their wishes – that is in the faith. His policies are discriminatory and the legislation is incompatible with the European Convention in that it represents an unecessary and unjustifiable interference with Catholic parents’ right to freedom of conscience, with their childrens’ right to access such educational facilities and services as are available, and with their right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds, by indoctrinating them into the kind of atheism which informs government policy and is at the root of many of the problems in secular society. We are Christians and we want our freedom.

  • TreenonPoet

     Putting aside, for the moment, the fact that some of the most evil deeds imaginable have been performed by the Catholic Church over centuries, and putting aside intellectual child abuse (religious indoctrination), and putting aside the fact that it is not only atheists and secularists who mention the sexual child abuse by priests and its cover up by the Church…
    Doing good is the default activity of most people – it is not always newsworthy. If an institution uses its privileged access to vulnerable children to facilitate sexual child abuse over and over again, then it will be reported over and over again, and until the Catholic Church makes the fundamental changes required to prevent it, it deserves to be criticised over and over again.

    PS. There are some secularists who are religious (including at least 74% of Christians in England and Wales according to an Ipsos MORI poll), and there are some atheists who, like me, are not true secularists. There is a word to describe atheism, and that word is ‘atheism’. Some religious people, like the pope, try to denigrate secularism because they regard their own religious views to be so superior that states should afford privilege accordingly. Trying to equate secularism to atheism will not achieve that end because enough people realise that word-tricks are not facts.

  • whytheworldisending

    Unfortunately no. Even if authentic faith were in evidence among teachers, children care about how their peers perceive them, and teachers delude themselves if they think their opinions matter more than peer pressure. Corrupt culture and degenerate “values” needs tackling head on in the same way that slavery and apartheid were. The classroom is not the place to start – it is law reform that is needed to curb the media and business interests – which promote vice in order to make money, and sacrifice childrens’ innocence to do so. 

  • Rosemarylangley

    If only 50 percent of students are Catholic, it is inevitable that there will be a dilution of the Catholic ethos.  This is reality.  It is hard enough anyway to keep our children in the Faith, without a handicap such as this.  Teachers will soft-pedal on doctrine so as not to offend non-Catholic students, leading to  the characteristic watering-down of Catholic teaching which has led to a huge falling away from the Church of young people since the 1960s.  To be successful in their aim to instil the Faith, Catholic schools have to radically change the way they teach catechetics, not to be afraid to speak of mortal sin, the possibility of losing one’s soul, fear of offending God etc. but this cannot be done unless the majority of students are Catholics.  This uncompromising teaching of the Truth would be anathema to non-Catholic students and their parents, and one can imagine the number of protests there would be.  Consequently, these ‘offensive’ truths will be diluted, distorted, or just not taught at all.  Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!

  • TreenonPoet

     If only 50 percent of students are Catholic, it is inevitable that there will be a dilution of the Catholic ethos.  This is reality.  It is hard enough anyway to keep our children in the Faith, without a handicap such as this.  Teachers will soft-pedal on doctrine so as not to offend non-Catholic students, leading to  the characteristic watering-down of Catholic teaching which has contributed to a huge falling away from the Church of young people since the 1960s.  To be successful in their aim to instil the Faith, Catholic schools have to radically change the way they teach catechetics, not to be afraid to speak of mortal sin, the possibility of losing one’s soul, fear of offending God etc. but this cannot be done unless the majority of students have Catholic parents who won’t complain.  This uncompromising teaching of lies would be anathema to non-Catholic students and their parents, and one can imagine the number of protests there would be.  Consequently, these ‘offensive’ lies will be diluted, distorted, or just not taught at all.  Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!

    Voilà! J’ai réparé il pour vous.

  • Johnsoncairo

    As part of a government that supports ‘same sex marriage’ I would be suspicious of his support. In the same way that there are pix and mix catholics there are politicians that have a pick and mix attitude to Catholic education when they think it supports their purposes.

  • srdc

    You are engaging in a selective bias.