Blunkett to decide fate of defiant Catholic college

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
EDUCATION Secretary David Blunkett will be forced to rule over the only Catholic grant-maintained school that is refusing to return to diocesan control.

He will have to decide between supporting the Church or his Government's policy of giving GM schools the right to choose their new status once the sector is abolished.

Archbishop Patrick Kelly, with the backing of all Catholic bishops in England and Wales, will ask Mr Blunkett to refuse foundation status for St Francis Xavier College in Liverpool.

Foundation status will confer considerable independence. The Catholic bishops want their schools to take aided status, which will give dioceses greater control.

The 1,216-pupil college is the only one of the 150 Catholic GM schools prepared to defy the bishops who issued the ultimatum - return to the diocese or risk being cut off from the Church.

The Most Rev Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, has told parents that the future of St Francis Xavier as a Catholic school would be threatened and said foundation status was "totally unsuitable".

And Bob Newman, diocesan director of schools, said: "The archbishop has the greatest of reservations. The college has eschewed the recognised category for Catholic schools."

Governors at the school voted 2:1 for foundation rather than voluntary-aided status - the Church's preferred option - and the deadline for parents to object passed this week.

The move will be confirmed by governors at a meeting next month but the final decision rests with Mr Blunkett. A spokesman said he would consider the diocese's view .

Brother Francis Patterson, headteacher, is certain the school can retain its Catholic character.

"I feel very confident that St Francis Xavier will continue in the family of schools of the archdiocese."

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