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Bishop puts schools in the black

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds has wiped out debts of pound;1.5 million from schools in his diocese.

The Rt Rev David Konstant has cancelled debts ranging from pound;3.31 at St Walburga's primary in Shipley, to pound;140,000 at St Joseph's primary in Keighley.

Peter King, head of St Joseph's, said: "This is a burden that has been lifted from the parish."

His 420-pupil school accrued debts after building a nursery and new hall and generally upgrading buildings.

At English Martyrs primary in Wakefield, headteacher Bernard Martin had all but given up hope of being able to cear the 270-pupil school's pound;100,000 debt.

"We were in the position where we could scarcely cover the interest," he said - even though the community had already raised pound;55,000, and was making monthly repayments.

Brian Donnell is head of St Thomas a Becket comprehensive in Wakefield, which had debts of around pound;40,000. He said: "This is a godsend."

Voluntary-aided schools are responsible for 15 per cent of their capital costs. Around 80 per cent of the 101 schools in Bishop Konstant's diocese had debts. The money to pay them has come from diocesan reserves.

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