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Plan for two new Catholic schools in London under threat

By on Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The High Court has granted a judicial review of the plan following a legal challenge by campaigners (Photo: PA)

The High Court has granted a judicial review of the plan following a legal challenge by campaigners (Photo: PA)

Plans for two new Catholic schools in south-west London are under threat after the High Court granted a judicial review of the scheme.

In May Richmond Council gave permission for the Diocese of Westminster to open a secondary and primary school on a site currently used by an adult training centre. But last week the High Court granted a judicial review into the council’s decision following a legal challenge by the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC), and the British Humanist Association, which claim that the Government’s new Education Act meant the council first had to consider proposals for an academy or free school, which can only enroll a maximum of 50 per cent of pupils based
on their religion. The hearing is expected to start in October.

Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said he was disappointed by the decision, and said the council’s own survey found 67 per cent of parents and residents supported the move.

Paul Barber, director of education at Westminster Diocese, said: “We are disappointed. Litigation is always an uncertain area, but we’re confident that this has been done properly.”

Richmond is one of only two London boroughs without a Catholic secondary school despite Catholics comprising more than 10 per cent of the local population, and Mr Barber said they had public opinion on their side. “If you look at the Catholic community, there is an overwhelming desire, and most people support what the Catholic
community is doing.”

He said that while there were “totally understandable” concerns among parents who were worried about finding a place, some people “have an ideological agenda, and it is generally one not shared by most people in Richmond”.

  • TreenonPoet

    Education Act 2011 modifies the 2006 Act. The first paragraph of new section 6A reads

    (1)If a local authority in England think a new school needs to be established in their area, they must seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy

    Richmond Council is a local authority in England who clearly think that a new school needs to be established in their area. Their attention was drawn to the requirement to seek proposals for the establishment of an Academy, so they are deliberately flouting the law. What was going through their minds? Did they think that residents would not be able to muster a legal challenge and therefore they could do what they liked, and if there was a legal challenge then taxpayers would be ultimately bear the burden anyway?

    Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said he was disappointed by the decision, and said the council’s own survey found 67 per cent of parents and residents supported the move.

    What bearing does the percentage of supporters have on the case? Even 100% support would not make it legal, and I doubt that the 67% were all aware that the move was illegal.

    He [Paul Barber, Director of Education at Westminster Diocese] said that while there were “totally understandable” concerns among parents who were worried about finding a place, some people “have an ideological agenda, and it is generally one not shared by most people in Richmond”.

    So protests about discrimination against the 90% non-Catholics (who also pay taxes) are ‘ideological’ and so can be dismissed?! Even the 50%-Catholic quota that could legally be applied to admissions to a ‘free’ school would be discriminatory because the school is funded by all taxpayers. There should be no quota of places reserved for the children of Catholic parents at all.

  • ninoinoz

    The Secretary of State had to give permission for this school to open, so he didn’t think much of the requirement of the Council to seek proposals for the establishment of an academy, probably because

    a. The school will not be controlled by the Council
    b. There will be another non-faith school opening anyway, such is the demand for places.

    What a waste of money by RISC, much better spent opening a school of their own.

  • Richmond Schools

    In accepting the application for a Judicial Review, Judge Ockleton of the High Court decided that 
    “Despite what the defendant [the Council] says it seems to me that it is arguable that the 
    consultation was based on a decision that provision was necessary…. If that is right, section 6A was 
    engaged.” Section 6A refers to the requirement introduced by the Education Act 2011 that a Council 
    that thinks it needs a new school must first to seek proposals for an Academy/Free School. He also 
    said that “A claim based on the legality of a decision taken on 24 May 2012 does not appear to be 
    out of time given the steps taken since, if section 6A applied, or if the consultation mis-stated the 
    Council’s position, [then the] decision was arguably unlawful.” 
    The Court agreed with us that the Council’s decision to give the Clifden Road site to the church for exclusive Voluntary Aided Catholic schools may be unlawful under the Education Act 2011. That’s good news for the thousands of people in the borough who think that it’s wrong to use the only currently-available site for a state-funded school that can turn away local children simply because of their parents’ beliefs, especially when there’s so much competition for high quality secondary school places.”  
    RISC supporters come from right across the spectrum, even including some Catholics. Most supporters don’t care about religion or Humanism but simply want good schools open to all. In the Council’s own consultation, threequarters of non-Catholics, including the majority of Anglicans, were against the proposed Voluntary Aided Catholic secondary school. But surely no one is saying that the Council should go ahead with a decision if it is not lawful.

  • Richmond Schools
  • ak

    There is a desperate need for Catholic schools – ask any Catholic school supporter. It has been mentioned multiple times by the Council since 2010 and formed the cornerstone of the consultation. Remember the question – Do you think a Catholic school is needed in Richmond? And why was Clifden road bought – to meet the growing need for school places!
    So what is illegal – Council’s refusal to set up an academy or running a consultation to mislead the public. Whichever way you look at it is illegal, disgraceful, disingenuous and a gross abuse of power that people entrusted the Council with 

  • Jeremy Rodell

    This is factually incorrect:
    a) The Secretary of State did not give permission for a Voluntary Aided school. Under the old rules, he was asked for permission for the church to “publish proposals” for a VA school, which he granted. But even under the old rules, the decision on whether to accept any such proposals lay with the Council, not the Secretary of State. 
    But now we’re under the new rules whereby a Council that thinks it needs a new school must first seek proposals for an Academy/Free School. The Council has failed to do that and decided to go ahead with a VA school regardless. It’s that decision that will be Judicially Reviewed. 
    b) The proposed Voluntary Aided school would be controlled by the church, not by the Council. The Council’s involvement is that, as a maintained school, the funding would be channelled through the Council. 
    c) There are no firm plans for a non-faith school. The Council is currently conducting a feasibility study into using part of the site of Richmond College (a 6th form college) for a secondary school in 2016 or 2017. No one knows where the finance will come from, what the plans will look like, or indeed what sort of school it will be (as the Council would need to seek an academy provider). RISC, by the way, simply wants good schools open to everyone. We have no desire to open a school.
    Meanwhile, the demand for school places for everyone – irrespective of whether their parents are Catholics or not – is going up. It’s likely that two new schools will be needed. Using the only site currently available for a school that will be closed to around 90% of local children can’t be right. No-one wants to exclude children of Catholics. All RISC wants is that any new school does not discriminate against children because of their parents’ religion or beliefs. 

  • andy

     You are a dissembler. Why not have the guts to come out and state that you hate the idea of faith based schooling, instead of hiding behind legal semantics.

  • Knight

    More likely it is any form of Christian teaching that is at the heart of the objection. One wonders if  ‘humanists’, atheists and secularists would raise a finger against an application to build, say, a madrassa.

  • Jeremy Rodell

    One of the things that has characterised this debate is the attempt to paint Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign as a bunch of aggressive atheists hellbent on the destruction of religious faith. I’m afraid that’s simply untrue. RISC speakers at the Council Cabinet meeting that decided to go ahead with the schools included two people who had themselves attended Catholic schools and a committed Anglican. As a humanist, personally I’m not dogmatically anti-religious as I know that faith is important in many people’s lives, including some of my friends’.

    Far from hiding behind legal semantics, we’ve been clear about the aims of the campaign from the start – just take a look at our website. Some supporters are  opposed to state-funded faith schools in principle, others are in favour of faith schools and have children attending them. But we’re united behind the core campaign aim that any new state-funded school set up in the borough should be equally open to all children irrespective of the religion of beliefs of their parents, regardless of who’s running it.

    However, the Council leadership have made clear time and again that they will drive their plans for an exclusive  Catholic Voluntary Aided school through (with up to 100% faith-based selection), regardless of the wider interests of the borough’s residents and the pressure on places at good secondary schools. We think they have made a legal error in failing first to seek proposals for a new Free School/Academy, where the maximum faith-based selection is 50%.  It is perfectly reasonable to get the courts to test that point. If the Council’s decision indeed proves unlawful, hopefully no-one would suggest they should press ahead with it. 

    If the church and the Council had at an earlier stage proposed the compromise  of an Academy – far from ideal from our viewpoint as it still involves selection by faith – my guess is that much of the opposition would have by now fallen away. 

  • Jeremy Rodell

    As there are a number of Christians who support our campaign – including some Catholics – that’s demonstrably untrue. The arguments would be exactly the same if an exclusive Muslim, Jewish, Hindu (or indeed Atheist) school were proposed. We’re campaigning for inclusivity and the removal of discrimination against children on the grounds of their parents’ religion, and that includes children of Catholics as much as children of Muslim, Anglicans or humanists. 

    If you’re on the receiving end of the  discrimination, it’s hard to understand the difference between being denied the opportunity of a place at a good local state-funded school because of your parents’ religion compared to being denied it because of their race or skin colour. The only difference is that one is still legal and other is not. Racial prejudice was legal once – but that didn’t make it right.

  • concernedparent

    Andy you are wrong in saying that RISC or Jeremy is against faith based schools – we have a lot of supporters who studied in faith schools or have kids studying in faith schools. In Richmond we support the Hampton CoE free school with 100% inclusive admissions that got approved. There are many complex issues about education in Richmond and the fact that all the Councils projections are proving wrong and that there is a need for more school capacity in the next 2 years. In times when funding is tight and sites are rare and demand outstripping supply, it is morally repugnant to give the Catholic group an exclusive school at the cost of others. A Catholic school with inclusive admissions policy instead would have resolved this controversy. 

  • concernedparent

    There are a number of Jewish and Sikh schools with 50% admissions policy that have been approved to open as free schools in London. Why cant the Catholics also follow the spirit and letter of the law? Even Gove and Cable have suggested 50% places to be reserved for non Catholics in the Richmond schools. 

    No group in this country should be allowed to be above the law. 

  • ak

    Paul Barber does not seem to be listening to the concerns of the Richmond parents. Thousands signed the inclusive school petition and responded against Catholic schools in Richmond. In fact more than 3/4th of non Catholic respondents including Anglicans opposed these extremely divisive, unfair and arguably illegal schools. 
    It is not good enough for him to say that concerns of Richmond parents are ” totally understandable”.  The assumptions underpinning the Council’s forecasts have been proving wrong – no new school in Kingston, no drop in out of borough pupils with Richmond schools once again outperforming schools in neighbouring boroughs at GCSE, fantastic results at our local schools which will surely see their spare capacity disappear faster than forecast, continuing recession etc. 
    If the Catholic community in Richmond truly believe in “love your neighbours as yourself” , they and Paul Barber should put in a proposal for a Catholic school that is open to everyone in the community. 

  • Z Cat

    Because funnilly enough there are Catholic parents would like thier children taught the Catholics Faith, by Catholic teachers who actually gave a crap about the teachings of our Faith.

    If you admit people of other faiths (or none) then there is pressure on the school to water down its ethos in the name of ‘inclusivity’ which when taken to its logical conclusion means that the teachings of the Church are diluted which defeats the whole point of a Catholic School int he first place

  • ak

    there are a number of private catholic schools who do not discriminate intake based on religion and do not claim to have watered down ethos.  However you always have an option of setting up a private school and deciding on admission policy as you want. Why use state funds for this purpose – state funds and the law are for the benefit of everyone . 
    Are you saying that you do not care whether the Catholic school is legal or not ? Even Gove recently said that he will not budge the 50% rule for Catholic schools
    ols/ . 
    Do you want to be above the law?

  • Z Cat

     If you want my honest opinion I believe that whilst other religions should be tolerated that the the government should recognise the One True Catholic and Apostolic Faith as such and be accord it Privileges and Protections eshrined in Law, I would like every MP to make his/her Oath of Office directly to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as overseen by the Archbishop of Wesminister, I would like every school to be a Catholic school with its own Chaplin and for every schoolchild to start the day with Holy Mass and conclude with Benediction.

    As for your ‘solution’ the fact is that many Catholic parents simply do not have the funds to send their children to Private Catholic schools, all the Catholics (taxpayers) in Richmond are asking for is that the government provide them with education facilities in which their children will be taught the Catholic Faith by Catholic teachers in a school which adheres to a strongly Catholic ethos.  If the parents were muslims from birmingham I doubt we’d be having this conversation

  • RomanEnvoy

    Faith schools take the pressure off admission issues with other state schools in the locality, schools that without this (new) Catholic school would have to receive those same children into their own classrooms.

    For the atheist contingent in Richmond to seek to deny a child an education on ideological grounds is simply abhorrent, though now so predictable that one barely bats an eyelid anymore…..

  • andy

     An inclusive admissions policy wouldn’t make it much of a Catholic school would it? But then that’s probably no loss to a pagan. It’s ironic that if it weren’t for the Church of England and the Catholic Church there would have been precious little for the state to get involved with after WW2. This whole wretched system needs overturning to allow fully Catholic schools if that is what tax paying Catholics desire. Which it is.

  • andy

     Yeah right, I’ll bet you’ll have the Pope’s endorsement next. I simply don’t believe you.You are a Gramsci-lite propagandist for secular education at the expense of faith schools.

  • ninoinoz

    “If you’re on the receiving end of the  discrimination, it’s hard to understand the difference between being denied the opportunity of a place at a good local state-funded school because of your parents’ religion compared to being denied it because of their race or skin colour. The only difference is that one is still legal and other is not.”

    No, you can change your religion – but you cannot change your skin colour.

    Also, we Catholics are paying 10% of the land and buildings. If we must have Free Schools where 50% is the maximum number of Catholics, we’ll take two – for no contribution!

    I also note that you seem to think that the resources of the State are solely for the disbursement of people of your beliefs – much the same attitude of the Southern Democrats in the USA pre-Civil Rights.

  • ninoinoz

    “Under the old rules, he was asked for permission for the church to
    “publish proposals” for a VA school, which he granted. But even under
    the old rules, the decision on whether to accept any such proposals lay
    with the Council, not the Secretary of State.”

    [Sep 17]: The Education and Inspections Act 2006 requires a
    competition to be held where a new primary, secondary or special school
    is proposed, including a brand new school. The Catholic Church will
    need to ask Michael Gove for special permission to set up a new school
    without any form of competition. The fact that there is local opposition
    will no doubt influence his decision on that:

    ‘ . . 7. Where an LA or other proposer wishes to
    establish a new school without a competition, they must apply to the
    Secretary of State for consent to publish proposals for a new school, as
    provided for in Section 10 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.”

    If he waves it through, then there will be a consultation process:

    If he doesn’t, then the council will have the choice of
    either having an open competition for the site, or working with the
    Catholic Church to set up a Faith Academy. Academies are exempt from
    competition; however the Catholic Church may not be happy about going
    down the academy route because of the rules that say new faith academies
    can only select 50% of their pupils by faith.

    So, let’s us examine the idiocy of your position.

    Michael Gove gives permission to set up a new Catholic school without competition – and this is illegal because the process was changed afterwards? The judge will almost certainly find that the decision was made before the law was changed – and that the old rules apply.

    Furthermore, your refusal to set up your own school under your own principles smacks of laziness or bigotry, I can’t decide which.

  • Liz

    Nino. you’re out of touch on this one I’m afraid.  Michael Gove gave his permission, under the old rules, to publish proposals (whilst simultaneously saying he thought the diocese should provide 50% open places in respect of the new rules that he knew were just around the corner). 

    However, the proposals were actually published after Feb 1st when the new rules started, at which point Michael Gove’s input became irrelevant. 

    Neither the council, nor the diocese, are disputing that they are following the new rules.  They just have a controversial way of interpreting the new rules.  It is that interpretation that will be tested in court.

  • Liz

    Roman, the issues are much more complex than you suggest, and to those of us who have followed the debate closely for the last year your comments appear lazy and prejudiced. 

  • Christopher Squire

    The review will decide an important point of law – the applicability or not of Section 6A of the Education and Inspections Act (2006, with 2011 schedule 11 amendments): Part 2 Establishment, discontinuance or alteration of schools. If the Council’s action [not following section 6A] is judged lawful, the Catholic school will go ahead; if not, there will be a competition for an academy, in which the Catholics can enter if they wish, or a free school. 

    I am confident that we all agree that the Council must obey the law of the land, even laws we don’t like.

  • ninoinoz

    “Using the only site currently available for a school that will be closed
    to around 90% of local children can’t be right. No-one wants to exclude
    children of Catholics.”

    Funny, no mention of the “feeder schools” admission policy in the borough which discriminated against Catholics – because there was no Catholic school to feed.

    Funny that.

  • fairtoall

    Someone a bit earlier said the discrimination against everyone else of a 100% Catholics only school was NOT like discriminating by Race or Skin colour…..because…….           “No, you can change your religion – but you cannot change your skin colour.”

    Actualy the admission is based on a PARENTS religion not the child’s own views !!   So you cannot change somebody-else’s religion.   How could you??   Could any adult change their parents relgion?  Of course not. 

    Could an Eleven year old or ten year old who wanted to go this Catholics only school in Richmond, change their parents views if they were atheist, C of E or Muslim.   The fact they could not shows the RIDICULOUS method of deciding admission to schools.  

    There could be a child with non-religious or Jewish Parents who wanted to grow up and be Catholic or work in the Catholic church,  but at ten years old they would be denied access to this school even if they lived next door.   What a stupid system !

      Children do not blankly follow their parents views.  
    The fact that it is based on PARENTS views and church attendance shows it is true discrimination actually based on family BACKGROUND.
    Why not ask children at age 10 what religion they plan to follow in their adult life,  give all 10 year olds a quiz on spirituality and then allocate places??

    No that would be silly because they are children and they are too young to choose a religion if any,  when they are ten years old.  Imagine asking them what politics they follow at that age- stupid – they are too young.

    This whole school segregation process is ONLY one clique trying to protect it own self interest and to ‘get-to’ children and brainwash them into their clique, before the children are old enough to make their opwn mature adult decision.

    IF your religion is the one true way, then you should all have the confidence to leave children alone until they grow up and they can freely choose it without being forced.

  • RomanEnvoy

    Whatever way you want to gloss it, you’re essentially preventing the building of a learning establishment designed to cater to the educational needs of young children, in an area that has been marked as having an especial need for such services.

    You know it, I know it, and everyone else knows it, and the only reason you’re opposing the plan is simply down to ideological reasons based on what, in the 21st century, is nothing more than unmitigated bigotry.

    It only saddens me that it’s the children who will suffer here.

    Like I said, if this plan is permanently blocked, all that that achieves is to pile more admissions pressure on the already existing schools, a situation that is damaging to everyone, of all faiths and none.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the judgement in the Judicial Review throws up….. 

  • Jeremy Rodell

    Again, the facts are wrong: The church is not paying 10% of the land and buildings. The Council are paying an undisclosed sum for them (expected to be around £10million) and are planning to provide them to the church on a 125 year lease at a peppercorn rent (i.e. free). The church would pay around £7million for the conversion of the buildings for the secondary – that compares to £35million that the Council spent on new buildings at Teddington school and over £20million being spent on the new building at Twickenham Academy – i.e a bargain. After that, the normal VA rules would apply: the taxpayer pays 100% of the running costs and 90% of ongoing capital costs. 

    But RISC has written evidence that the church has said that, once it has secured the VA school, it would be happy to convert it to an Academy, as is already happening with some existing Catholic schools. That would then be 100% funded by the taxpayer (both running and capital costs). But starting as a VA schools and then converting would enable them to carry over the 100% faith based selection policy (as the 50% rule does not apply to conversions, only to new schools). In other words, the idea is to play the system in order to maximise the discrimination against non-Catholics. Not surprisingly, a lot of people find that offensive. 

    They would also find offensive the claim that religious discrimination is ok, when racial discrimination is not, because religion is a matter of choice. The implication in this case is that no-one should complain because they can always convert to Catholicism. Presumably local Catholics would be happy to convert to Islam if the only site were to be taken over by an exclusive Muslim school? Or maybe Christians in Iraq should be told to stop complaining about murderous discrimination as they can always drop their faith and become Sunni Muslims? 

  • Jeremy Rodell

    You clearly know more about Marxism than I do. But I’m afraid this comment is an example of a common misconception about the meaning of “secularism”, which is simply that the state is neutral in matters of religion and belief. It does not mean the ironing out of religious diversity, let alone the imposition of atheism – no-one is proposing either of those. Nor does it mean denying children high quality Religious Education (though I guess we may disagree on its content). 
    But this is irrelevant as the issue here is a local one, not about national legislation. 
    It’s simply a fact that:
    a) RISC has a diverse range of supporters, including some Catholics, and including people who are not opposed to faith schools.
    b) RISC has said time and again that it would not oppose an inclusive Catholic school. RISC made no comment on the CofE primary Free School that has been approved for Hampton, because it will have fully inclusive admissions.Incidentally, while indeed we don’t have the Pope’s support, both Vince Cable and Michael Gove have said in writing that they would support a 50% compromise. 

  • Nat_ons

    This semi-rationalised ‘choice’ is to confuse individual ‘belief’ with communal ‘religion’; the latter binds man to man and all men to God (or some idol replacing God), the former today means an expression of some personal opinion (or ‘feeling’). Catholic Truth contains both aspects, and much more besides, being what most modern minds like to term a complete philosophy of life. However, unlike modern ideologies, which limit every choice to a particular idea or ideal, the universality of truth cannot be thus defined – and hence pigeonholing its communal aspect as the mere choice of a single opinion among many others is fundamentally mistaken (catholic orthodoxy requires the acceptance of truth as a whole not just its more convenient parts).

    The infant born into a Christian family – or that of the Heathen, Jewish, Muslim or even atheist family – can choose freely to leave his community behind; the community, however, cannot simply leave its infant members to shift for themselves (least of all in matters of faith and morals or wisdom) .. or it will fail to offer its main purpose: communion; after all, atheists may indeed offer a coherent sense of ‘communion’ (most, wisely, do not choose to do so).

    Today’s prevailing ideology is still that of the Age-of-Aquarius’ freewheeling individualism run riot, all but obliterating the imposed disciplines of communion and community – other, of course, than some form of society one chooses to adopt (or more likely one adapted to fit into one’s own ideas) - hence the conflict.

  • Guest

    Nino, that ‘Linked Schools’ policy has now been dropped, as it should have been a long time ago!

    It could have been been dropped earlier if the other Catholic primaries had pushed for it, as Sacred Heart in Teddington did (successfully).

    The Admissions Forum, which were responsible for that policy, has lots of Catholic representation on it and could have made that happen.  The reason they didn’t bother was because they think that all Catholic children should go to Catholic schools.

    Even now that the Linked Schools policy has dropped, most Catholic parents don’t know about it because their schools haven’t spread the word.

  • DD

    Nope, not true.  The council have bought a site, with a school building on it.  It would be perfect for a Free School.  In fact a Free School has already expressed an interest in it, and they have a huge amount of local support.  The Catholic community could put forward a proposal for a Free School too, and the two groups could compete on an equal basis.  However, instead, the council has (unlawfully in my view, and hopefully the JR’s) just decided to hand it over to the Catholic Church.  That’s not fair.

  • yapyapyap

    Stop playing with numbers ak.   Other thousands also responded with an equally clear message of support for a Catholic School in Richmond and the % outcome of the many consultations speak for themselves.   There is also no argument that faith schools per-se are illegal so please do not take us back to the dark ages in suggesting so.   

    This whole debate is about the process by which the decision was arrived at and whilst personally dissapointed it has come to the High Court, at least it is another example of fair law being practiced.  

    If you elected to practice what you preach in loving your neighbour, you’d support the notable overall majority in Richmond who either directly support or are perfectly comfortable with a Catholic School for Richmond that has no overall impact on the accessibly for secondary schooling overall.    

    As for doom mongering around place availability, once again it is dissapointing that people meddle with forecasts.   There is no proof that Richmond is heading for a quality place shortage and to suggest otherwise proves how limited RISC’s overall argument is.   

  • Yapyapyap

    Gove signed off on the proposal ak so stop spinning facts.  The debate has moved on to whether the process of decision making was flawed so why not stick to the facts. 

    As to your point of state funds, I believe Catholics are tax paying members of British Society – are you suggesting they have no rights to lawfully request such an inclusive school. 

  • DD

    There’s plenty of proof.  You just haven’t been listening.

  • DD

    They have the legal right to request an INclusive school.  They also have the legal right to request a 50% EXclusive school.  They even have the legal right to request a 100% EXclusive school.  However, the council has no right to grant that third type of request unless its already invited proposals for an academy. 

  • Jeremy Rodell

    The idea of paying taxes is that we all are legally obliged to pay in and trust the elected government to use the money in the interests of the country and its citizens as a whole. Paying taxes gives no-one a “right” to a school exclusively for the members of their religious community or any other sort of group. Where does it stop? Hospitals just for Chelsea supporters? NHS dentists exclusively for higher rate taxpayers?

  • Gogapkap

    As a catholic parent with kids in local Richmond catholic primary, I support the need for new catholic secondary. But not for a exclusive school that will stop my neighbours kids to go to school with my kids. A catholic academy with 50 percent places for community will not dilute catholic ethos , the diversity will only enrich it.

    Honestly I am ashamed by some radical posts made by Catholics here disagreeing with concerns of others. The suggestion that there should be special laws for Catholics is disgraceful. What next sharia for muslims etc ?

    The politicians are using divide and rule . Let’s not fall into their trap

  • la catholic state

    You said it.  Sharia for Muslims (then for Kaffirs) is probably somewhere down the pipeline.  .

  • Guest

    This is part of a New World Order…….Suppressing and extermination of the Christian Faith….This can be seen in many South African countries just now, and will only get worse. The problem here with this
    is, not many Christians will take to the streets in protest and will fall on deaf ears. Unlike a Muslim, which would be against their Human Rights, with them making sure they’re heard. If this country doesn’t get it house in order, then in 30-40 years time, Church-bells will be replaced with wailing sirens. The future is not good.

  • Jeremy Rodell

    How do we get to this comment starting from a story about whether there should be a Catholic school with up to 100% of children selected on the basis of their parents’ religion, or a school that could still be a Catholic school but where up to 50% could still be selected on the basis of their parents’ religion? 
    It seems even the slightest challenge to long-standing religious privilege is characterised as prejudice against Christians, and in this example, an excuse to attack Muslims. It is not. It’s simply other people, including some Catholics, fighting for fairness.

    We live in a plural society in an inter-connected plural world. State-sponsored privilege for particular groups over others, especially when it impacts children’s education, is no longer acceptable or desirable.

  • la catholic state

    Um….Western Civilisation was built upon the recognition that Christianity was the Truth.  And Truth deserves privileged position, don’t you think?!  If you don’t think so….then don’t be surprised when it all goes pear shaped.

    Catholics are not asking for special recognition….just the acknowledgment that we are not secular….and don’t want a secular education for our children.  Our taxes should be used for our schools.  Otherwise it is misappropriation of funds.

  • Jeremy Rodell

    This is not the place to argue about religious “truths” (of which there are many across the world), nor about the exclusion from your definition of Western Civilisation of the ancient Greeks, pre-Christian Romans, Vikings, Andalucian Moors and the Golden Age of Islam, and all the non-religious post-Enlightenment artists, philosophers and scientists, including Darwin and Einstein. 

    But, even if you don’t agree with those who are arguing for inclusive schools, isn’t it simply a fact that to demand a school where the Voluntary Aided structure has been specifically chosen to enable up to 100% faith based selection (which means 100% exclusion of non-Catholics) in an environment where there is a lot of competition for places at good state secondaries, is asking for a special privilege when seen from the perspective of non-Catholics?  

    There are no “Catholics’ taxes”. There are just “taxes”. Or are there “Muslims’ taxes” and “Atheists’ taxes” and “Chelsea supporters’ taxes” and “people with red hairs’ taxes”? That isn’t “anti-Catholic”, it’s simply the reality. You and I are both members of the same (plural, free and, hopefully, compassionate) society. 

  • la catholic state

    There can only be one Truth.  Jesus Christ is God or not.  Both cannot be true.  I am speaking of Western Civilisation since the time of Christ.  Of course, Christianity built on the best of what existed before.

    I am all for allowing non-Catholics to enroll in Catholic schools….but only after practising Catholics have been catered for.  If secularists wish to do the same for secular schools…then so be it. 

    I am a member of this plural, not so free, and not so compassionate society.  But as a Catholic….it is my duty to spread the Faith and bring all to Christ.

  • Jeremy Rodell

    Secularism isn’t a belief. It simply means that the state is neutral. That means schools that are open to everyone, including children of atheists, Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims, Jews, etc. By definition, a “secular school” (which is pretty much any type other than a faith school) cannot exclude anyone on the basis of their parents’ religion or beliefs. And any good school teaches universal values – including kindness and tolerance of others – as well as thinking skills and, of course, knowledge, including knowledge of religion and beliefs.
    That does not stop parents seeking to pass their values and beliefs on to their children either through their own example or through attendance at church services, festivals, Sunday school etc.

    As a humanist, I would defend your right to practice your faith, and to proclaim it in the way that you suggest, provided that does not infringe the rights and freedoms of others. But setting up a new state-funded school that excludes children of non-Catholics (unless there are some spare places to fill, which no-one thinks will be the case in the Twickenham school), in an environment where parents are worried about finding places at good schools, does infringe the rights and freedoms of others. It’s difficult, but try looking at it from their viewpoint.

  • ninoinoz

     If you do wish your child to be educated with children of other faiths, feel free to send them to a non-Catholic school. Simples.

    Other groups are free to set up their own schools if they so wish. There is nothing in the Education Acts that gives Catholics special privileges.

  • ninoinoz

    You have demonstrated in your post that you are a rather unpleasant distorter of the truth..

    To claim that a peppercorn rent is “free” is absurd as it ignores the money the Church is putting into the building. I myself pay a peppercorn rent on my flat, shame it cost me £200,000 to have the lease assigned to me.

    Hardly “free”, is it?

    The Council is not paying an “undisclosed sum” for the building as it (or one of its controlled subsidiaries) already owns it. It used to be an adult education college and before that Twickenham County School.

    Incidentally, £7million/£10 million is a great deal more than 10%, the statutory minimum.

    As for “playing the system”, you are of course referring to “using the law”, something you seem to have no qualms in doing so yourself.

    So, the law is only there for your benefit, eh?

  • local parent

    We live in a plural society in an inter-connected plural world. State-sponsored privilege for particular groups over others, especially when it impacts children’s education, is no longer acceptable or desirable.”

    Just a question, why are you not then campaigning for Waldegrave girls school  (the only single sex school in the borough)to become a mixed school for boys and girls? Why are you not campaigning for an education sytem in the borough where children are not selected on distance from a popular local school but through a ballot system that enables children right across the borough from the most affluent to the poorest to gain places? A school in central Twickenham that has the current admission criteria for 2013 would only recruit from the immediate area as soon as it became popular. Surely this is a ‘state funded privelage’ for one group of people too.  On the other hand a Catholic secondary school will recruit from right across the borough from the more affluent wards  to the poorest such as parts of the Heathfield and Ham wards.
     Every school in the borough has an admissions and over subscription criteria and not every school can cater for ALL the children who would like to go there. The focus needs to be on raising the standards of schools for all across the borough and at giving a good continuity of education for all following on from the primary school experience. This continmuity is not currently available for the children leaving the catholic primary schools in the borough at the moment.

    The result of court action of the kind you are proposing if successful will deny children from right across the borough a choice of another school for 2013 at huge cost to the tax payer and at what price to ALL children across the borough as money will undoubtedly come from the education budget for all schools? There is no approved Free school to step in 2013 if the Catholic bid has to be withdrawn so instead of a school filled with children there will be an empty building for an indefinate period (secured, heated and maintained by the tax payer) 

    The councils decision is about creating CHOICE. There are Anglican primary schools in the borough and quite rightly and Anglican secondary school , state schools and several state secondary schools, 6 catholic primary schools and the majority of these children have to leave the borough at 11 to progress onto a Catholic secondary school. There is no ‘interconectedness’ for these children in their own borough in the same way that their primary schools have worked alongside and built close relationships with other schools in the community over generations, co- existing happily and fruitfully. This campaign has stirred up religious intolerance like I have never witnessed before in the borough of Richmond and it is unesasary. The council HAVE promised a second site for another state school, indeed they have identified a site and are conducting a feasabilty study into the use of that site for another new non faith state school. Most importantly the electorate of this borough through the consultation process have voted repeatedly with the majority in favour of these CAtholic schools, the council themselves stood on this issue in their election manifesto and were elected by the people of the borough. Democracy HAS been upheld and the people of this borough have expressed their views clearly with the majority vote in approval of the Catholic schools.

  • Jeremy Rodell

    noninoz – it’s a shame if we can’t have this discussion without resorting to personal insults. 

    I’m afraid you’re simply wrong about the facts here:
    1. The Council does not currently own the Clifden Road site. It is owned by Richmond Adult and Community College, which is independent of the Council. It was a major decision, taken by the Council Cabinet in July 2011 (and recorded in the minutes available on the Council website), to buy it from RACC. They paid a deposit of £5 million – recorded in the accounts –  but the  purchase has not yet been completed, and (with no proper justification) the total not yet disclosed. But an indication was given in a Council debate last year that it is of the order of £10 million.
    2. The definition of a “peppercorn rent” is that it is negligible. The Council is not planning to charge the church for the 125 year lease (unlike your flat).
    3. The deal on VA schools was originally set up in 1944 to enable existing church schools to be brought into the state system. Those schools had been largely paid for by the churches. This is a new school and the Council and church have done a deal: the Council pays for the land and buildings, as well as the conversion costs for the primary school, while the church pays the (bargain) £7.5m conversion for the secondary. When the school opens, then the same rules apply as other existing VA schools: the taxpayer pays 100% of running costs and 90% of ongoing capital costs.
    4. In my book it’s playing the system for the church to say that it needs to set the school up as a VA school in order to secure up to 100% faith-based selection (and so get round the 50% rule that applies to all new academies/free schools), but it would then be happy later to convert it to an academy in line with government and Council policy (as the 50% rule doesn’t apply to existing VA schools that convert to academies). We have written proof, obtained under Freedom of Information request from the Dept. for Education, that that’s the plan.  This is simply a device to get round the rules.

    Our request for a Judicial Review is not aiming to get round the law, but simply to clarify what the law is, and hence whether the Council have acted unlawfully.

  • ak

    Local parent I share your concern about religious intolerance. It is the Divide and Rule policy of Lord True and the Council that has caused this stir. In the name of choice and diversity, exclusive privilege  for the powerful and influential group is being created at the expense of others who will suffer. This is  a mockery of democracy. No one is saying that a Catholic school should not be there, but it will be the only exclusive secondary school in our borough. Even the CoE school has over 50% places reserved for non faith places – despite the fact that there are over a dozen CoE primary schools – even to fill if they wished 3 CoE secondaries. 
    There is no electorate mandate for creating a Catholic VA school when the Councils education policy is to make all schools academies.  If you look at the parents of primary age children who responded to that consultation those for and against were roughly equal, and 75% of non Catholics, including the majority of Anglicans, were against it. Anyway the Council was going to plough on regardless whatever they say. 

    But above all it’s the issue of legality and the governments intention to promote inclusivity in faith schools and put an end to religious discrimination in our schools. It will be a real shame for democracy if the law does not hold its spirit and letter in this case.