Bath council puts itself in debt to provide a “Christian sixth form”

Bath and North East Somerset Council has agreed to fund a new Christian sixth form in Bath which will involve it borrowing £2 million.

St Gregory’s Catholic College launched its plans for a new £3 million sixth form building, which will be shared with its federation school, St Mark’s Church of England Secondary, in September 2009.

At a full Bath and North East Somerset council meeting last week, councillors voted in favour of funding the project. In July last year, the cabinet had agreed to support the federation of St Gregory’s and St Mark’s with a joint sixth form as part of a strategy for the future of secondary schools in Bath.

However, the Conservatives later raised concerns when the ruling Liberal Democrats decided to keep Culverhay School open and said they feared there would no longer be enough money for the expansion of St Gregory’s. Councillors voted in favour of borrowing the money for the scheme.

Speaking at the meeting, the prospective executive head teacher of St Gregory’s and St Mark’s Raymond Friel said: “It is not all about surplus places, it is about the need for further provision. Outstanding schools like St Gregory’s should be able to expand and extend their ethos.”

Some £400,000 has been allocated from the Locally Controlled Voluntary Aided Programme supported by B&NES and the dioceses of Clifton and Bath and Wells.

Mr Friel added: “This is great news for everyone who has campaigned for a Christian sixth form in the authority. It’s not healthy if one type of provision has a near monopoly of 16–19 education. Our joint sixth form, with its new facilities, will provide another high-quality option for young people in the area. There is still much to do but I am hopeful that, once we are re-designated as an 11–18 school, we can move at pace and open the sixth form in September 2013.”

See also: Despite church pressure, RE will not be included in Ebacc