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Church challenge as Catholics spread

MORE Catholic schools will be needed to keep up with the demands of an increasingly dispersed Catholic population, new research says.

The current distribution of Catholic schools still mirrors the historical distribution of the Catholic population, say John Gay and Jan Greenough from Culham College Institute, Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The core are in Lancashire and Merseyside with the strongest concentration in Liverpool.

School distribution has attempted to keep up with the spread of the Catholic population from its 19th century concentrations to the new towns, suburbs and the countryside, but, Gay and Greenough argue, more will be needed as the trend continues.

Rural areas have the lowest proportions of Catholi schools. Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Cornwall and Lincolnshire have less than 2.5 per cent Catholic schools, their analysis of Department for Education and Employment figures for 1995 found. However, the Church of England is particularly strong in rural areas where it has many small schools, their study found.

They ask: "Will RC schools be provided in new areas? And will the Church of England be able to provide new primary schools in areas of major population growth?"

The authors note that Church schools still educate nearly 30 per cent of primary pupils.

Sarah Cassidy

"The geographical distribution of Church schools in England" by John D Gay and Jan Greenough, Culham College Institute, price pound;10

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