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Faith schools with a touch of class

Robert Ganley Manchester

Peter Wilby's ill-informed article about faith schools in general and Roman Catholic schools in particular cannot go unchallenged (TES, November 3).

A recent survey commissioned by the Catholic Education Service which used comprehensive Ofsted data dispelsthe myth that children who attend faith schools are those who tend to come from "middle-class" homes.

Fact: Roman Catholic schools have a very similar percentage of children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds as do schools generally, and the distribution of such schools across the free school meals bands parallels national averages. There appears to be a mistaken tendency to assume that single-faith schools equate to single cultural or racial groups. The proportion of pupils from minority ethnic groups in Roman Catholic schools is above the average in other schools.

It has always been a feature of Roman Catholic schools to serve immigrant communities: first the Irish, then the first wave of Polish and Italian communities immediately after the war. Later, in the Catholic school I taught in during the 1970s, some 30 per cent of pupils were from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds.

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