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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Catholic Education Boss interferes in local decision on Richmond School

Supporters of inclusive education in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames have been “incensed” to discover that Dr Oona Stannard, Chief Executive of the Catholic Education Service, has sent a questionable letter to all members of Richmond Borough Council.

In it she gives “a series of misleading arguments and inaccurate statements” to convince councillors to allocate the only available site for a new secondary school in the borough to a Catholic Voluntary Aided school, rather than an community school. Only in a community school would pupils and staff of all religions and none be treated equally. In contrast, the Catholic school will be controlled by Church representatives rather than the local authority and will discriminate in favour of pupils from Catholic families.

In the letter, Dr Stannard argues in support of the Council-backed proposal for a new Catholic school, claiming superior quality for schools that give priority to children of Catholics.

Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) has been campaigning for any new school in the borough to have admissions open to all children, regardless of religion or belief, and has built up almost 2,000 supporters in the area signing a petition on the local authority’s website. RISC has now also written to councillors, in order to rebut Dr Stannard’s arguments.

Jeremy Rodell, coordinator of RISC said, “Some of the arguments Dr Stannard puts forward in this attempt to interfere in the local debate would be laughable if the issue were not so serious. How can she possibly justify the claim that a new Catholic Voluntary Aided school would provide the borough with ‘greater choice’, or make a ‘contribution to community cohesion’ when it would effectively be closed to the 90% of local children who are not Catholics?

“Or that a school specifically intended to provide places in Twickenham for Catholic children who would otherwise go to one of the eight existing Catholic secondary schools across the borough border but within five miles of the centre of the borough would ‘release places in some of the Community secondary schools’. That’s simply illogical. She doesn’t seem to have any understanding of the real challenges facing education locally.

“As we keep saying, most of the opposition to the Council’s plans for a new Catholic Voluntary Aided School is not because the school would be Catholic, but because its admissions policy would always give priority to Catholics over everyone else – even if they live outside the borough. What the great majority of people want is sufficient places at high quality inclusive schools, whoever is running them.”


See also: I’m horrified our community school is being turned over to the Church of England?

Published Fri, 30 Sep 2011