Council Taken To Court Over New Catholic School In Twickenham
Thursday 15th November 2012
A judical review about a Catholic School in Twickenham could set a precedent which would see faith schools across the country forced to admit non-religous students.
The British Humanist Association is going to court - after Richmond Council approved plans for the new Catholic school in an area short of school spaces.
They want to halt what they call the "back-door spread of new state religious schools throughout England.
The BHA, along with a local campaign group, have applied for judicial review of the decision by Richmond Council to hand £10m of land and assets to the Catholic church to set up two new voluntary-aided religious schools - one primary and one secondary.
Richmond Council has approved proposals for a new Catholic school on Clifden Road in Twickenham, but the decision has caused a rift in the local community. Some parents believe that all new schools in the Borough should be religiously inclusive in admissions so that no child can be denied a place in a good local school because of the religion or belief of their parents.
However, the proposals will see the primary school, if oversubscribed, select a majority of places on the basis of religion.
Opponents of the new school say the government's new Education Act means that the council should have considered building an academy or a free school, which can only enrol 50% of pupils based on their religion.
Twickenham mum Natalie Raja told LBC 97.3: "It's the 21st century and I just struggle with the notion of separating children at five years old on the basis of faith."
Speaking to the LBC 97.3 Morning News, Andrew Copson, the CEO of the BHA, said: "Richmond Council noticed the need for a new school and instead of opening that up to competition as the new law requires, they did what we see as a back-door deal with the Roman-Catholic church in London.
"They bought a site for almost £10m and are about to hand it over to the church for a school that will be 100% selective on religious grounds in over-subscribed.
"So instead of an inclusive school that children of parents of all different beliefs could go to, they proceeded to set up a Catholic school that would select and we don't think that's right.
"Although it's a very local case, it's part of a national trend. It's not a level playing field in the setting up of new schools. It's not democratic, it's not accountable and it doesn't really provide schools that everyone can go to."
A spokesperson for the diocese said: "The diocese of Westminster, Richmond council and the Department of Education have each expressed confidence that they have acted lawfully throughout what was an extended consultation exercise and democratic process, and we are confident the court will confirm this.
"The diocese is delighted that the public consultation was in favour of the new schools and the recent open days demonstrated powerful local support for them. We look forward to providing the education that parents in Richmond have been consistently asking us to provide for their children."