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Catholic places plea

The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, has attacked an "unacceptable" shortage of school places for Catholic pupils, writes Nicholas Pyke.

In a critical speech delivered to last week's National Conference on Catholic Education in Birmingham, the Archbishop said that the Government was failing to offer parents the choice they had been promised. "Present restrictions effectively deny many Catholic parents the right to a Catholic education for their children," he said.

His comments come as some local authorities are attempting to abolish free transport for Catholic secondary pupils. One London council, Brent, has already announced that it will not pay for pupils to attend a Catholic school if there is a county school nearby with places to fill.

Cardinal Hume described Brent's argument that nationally approved religious education syllabuses now allow non-Catholic schools to cater for Catholics as "absurd". He called for oversubscribed Catholic schools to be allowed to expand whether or not they had opted out. "Many of our schools desire to remain within the LEA framework and should be allowed to do so."

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