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Claims of religious ethos without foundation

As chairman of the trustees of St Philip's Sixth Form College in Birmingham, may I take this opportunity to correct some inaccuracies in your report "Merger may save censured college" (TES, June 25).

The governors resolved to close St Philip's College in 1993 as a result of the impossibility of ensuring its Roman Catholic identity. This decision and the reasons for reaching it were fully endorsed by the trustees and have not altered. Until a recent proposal was made by the South Birmingham College the date set for closure was August 1996. This proposal, if successful, will still bring about the closure of St Philip's College, but a year earlier than intended. It is hoped that a new sixth form centre will be created, initially on the site currently occupied by St Philip's College.

It is confusing to state, as your report does, that this new sixth form centre will continue to be known as "St Philip's", and that South Birmingham College "would retain St Philip's Roman Catholic ethos". South Birmingham College is a non-denominational secular college. It does not have a religious foundation. However, the trustees and the Catholic diocesan authorities are willing to co-operate with South Birmingham College to ensure that chaplaincy services are provided of those students and staff who had expected to remain within a nominally Catholic institution until 1996.

Your report mentions that since the closure of St Philip's was first proposed in September 1993, "several rescue plans have emerged only to be written off for legal or other reasons". These rescue plans "emerged" at the initiative of the governors and trustees. The governors in particular had worked hard to bring a peaceful end to a difficult affair by trying to save staff jobs and the educational provision represented by St Philip's.

Now that there is once more hope of a solution, the trustees look forward to being able to wish the staff and students of St Philip's College every success as a part of the South Birmingham College.

THE VERY REVD PAUL CHAVASSE Provost and chairman of the trustees, St Philip's Sixth Form College The Oratory, Hagley Road Edgbaston, Birmingham

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