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Residents oppose Christian expansion

A private Christian school's attempt to get Government money will destroy any chance of setting up a local authority secondary school nearby, parents in Avon have claimed.

Oak Hill school in Bradley Stoke, near Bristol, is one of only a handful likely to "opt in" for grant-maintained status from the private sector, under recent legislation.

It hopes to build a new primary school and a 500-pupil secondary school with Government money. The proposal has the support of Bradley Stoke council which is keen to see a secondary school in the town.

But the plans, yet to be approved by the Government, have been vigorously opposed by both Avon County Council and a group of residents. The council says it has its own plans to build a secondary school in the town around the turn of the century, but this will have to be shelved if Oak Hill goes ahead.

Avon claims the Christian school will not be "open" to all residents in the town because the school will insist on interviewing the parents of all applicants. Parents will also be obliged to sign a statement supporting the school's aims and ideals.

"Admission is likely to be on selection by aptitude, and parents and children will be chosen on the basis, largely, of their own values and beliefs," says the council.

The school denies entry will be restrictive and says the school planned is not specifically religious.

"We will not be ramming Christianity down children's throats," says Ruth Deakin, former head and now director of Oak Hill. But the lessons will include reference to specific Christian themes. She says the school already has commitments from more than 600 families. Its aims and objectives are general and include valuing personal development and moral responsibility.

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