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Catholics ‘betrayed’ over faith schools decision – Bishop of Shrewsbury

By Dominic Robertson | Shrewsbury | Education | Published:

The government has betrayed Catholics and a manifesto pledge over faith schools, according to the Bishop of Shrewsbury.

Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rev Mark Davies

The Rev Mark Davies, the Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury, said the Conservative government's decision not to remove a cap on admissions to faith based schools was a result of lobbying from a "small and largely secularist lobby".

The cap on admissions means that faith schools can only take 50 per cent of pupils from one religion.

After that they are prevented from admitting more pupils of the same faith.

In a homily at the National Conference of the Catenian Association in Telford Rev Davies said the cap was preventing the opening of new Catholic schools because it would contravene Code of Canon Law.

The Bishop accused the government of "capitulating to the demands of the a vocal minority".

He said: “This Sunday, we all are aware that the Government has gone back on its manifesto promise to remove the admissions quota which prevents the opening of Catholic free schools. It is a situation not unlike that of a century ago, which sees a governing party swayed by a vocal minority.

“It is a decision which is not merely a betrayal of a manifesto pledge or the promises made to the Catholic community. It represents a deeper shift in attitude across the whole political spectrum, where the rights and choices of Christian parents in raising their own families are made subservient to an ideology.

“I say this, because it is was not diversity or social inclusion that is at issue. We know church schools represent the fullest ethnic diversity and contribute enormously by their values to social cohesion. It appears to be an ideological understanding of ‘diversity’ which has seen the church barred from a particular field of education in spite of the facts.

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“This was very definite defeat for Catholic education and more specifically the aspiration of parents seeking a Catholic education for their children. However, it is a defeat from which an ominous lesson can be drawn of how a government can acquiesce with a small and largely secularist lobby to undermine the freedom in which Christians can live and educate their children.”

Earlier this year a petition from Telford's Catholic Good Shepherd Parish against the cap was signed by 155 people and presented to the government by the town's MP, Lucy Allan.

At the time it appeared the government was set to remove the cap, a decision which Ms Allan said she was in favour of.

Speaking in February she said: “I am pleased the new education secretary has signalled that he intends to do away with this unfair barrier to education.

“Parents in Telford should be free to choose how and where their child should be educated and, by removing this cap, we can restore this option.”

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