New Catholic schools set to open across Norfolk if faith admissions cap is lifted

Notre Dame High School's Finkelgate entrance. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Notre Dame High School's Finkelgate entrance. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Four new Catholic schools could be opened in the region as The Catholic Diocese of East Anglia is poised to take advantage of a proposed removal of the 50pc faith admissions cap.

A Government consultation on lifting the cap which ended yesterday would permit oversubscribed free schools to select more pupils according to their faith, and pave the way for more Catholic schools to open.

The Diocese say if the cap is removed they are 'in a position to act straight away to move towards the opening of new schools.'

A new Catholic primary school is being proposed in Thetford within the new housing development planned to the north of the town, while two primaries and possible sixth form provision are hoped for in Norwich.

The Sacred Heart Convent School in Swaffham is also considering proposals for a new free school as well as possible expansion plans.

Assistant director for the Schools Commission for the Diocese of East Anglia, Helen Bates, said the new schools are 'desperately needed to meet the demand we already have here in East Anglia.'

'For the Catholic Church, the cap has meant it has been unable to open any new Catholic schools in case it results in Catholic children being turned away from a Catholic school,' she said. 'In East Anglia we have some of the most severe shortages of places, which is why we want to bid for so many new schools.'

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Brian Conway, Chief Executive Officer of the St John the Baptist Catholic Multi-Academy Trust, which currently covers six primaries and a high school in Norfolk and north Suffolk, said: 'We have a real need for Catholic primary school places in north Norwich and this is growing as large housing developments in places like Sprowston and Rackheath are planned. 'A school in north Norwich could serve a Catholic need from this housing as well as an existing need across north Norfolk where there are no Catholic schools. We are also considering the possibility of new sixth form provision in central Norwich, which could be linked to extra 11-16 places at Notre Dame High School.'

The plans, floated in a Government green paper, have been described as 'the very opposite of integration' by the British Humanist Association (BHA).

BHA Director of Public Affairs and Policy Pavan Dhaliwal called the proposals 'divisive and discriminatory', and called the Government to 'reaffirm its commitment to ensuring integration in the education system and the fair access of local families to local schools,' by scrapping the plans.

'Integration cannot be meaningfully achieved unless schools are open to and inclusive of all children, regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds,' she said.

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