Church accused of fixing governing body

11th November 2005 at 00:00
The Catholic Church has been accused of appointing a governor to a Leeds primary school purely because he backed the Church's decision to close it.

Bill Hopkins said he was contacted by the Leeds diocese and invited to become a foundation governor of Mount St Mary's primary after he argued that it should be shut in a letter to the local paper.

The 85-year-old Catholic had no previous connection with the school, which has beacon status, though he has been a school governor in the past.

Mount St Mary's parents are opposed to the closure and the board of governors is divided.

Chair of governors, Mick Lyons, who is a leading opponent of closure, said:

"Mr Hopkins has been sent in not for the benefit of the children, but for the diocese to close the school. It's not on."

The previous foundation governors, who opposed closure, came to the end of their term of office in July and new ones, including Mr Hopkins, who back the plans, were appointed. The Church wants to shut the school and send pupils to St Patrick's primary, arguing that falling numbers at Mount St Mary's and its poor facilities make it unsustainable.

Mr Hopkins said he was contacted by the diocese after writing his letter.

"They said, 'Here's a man who sees the situation properly - let's get him on the board of governors.' The nettle has to be grasped and we are grasping it.

"Our interest is the welfare of the children. We want them to have a Catholic education in better surroundings."

Clare Reynolds, a parent with two children at Mount St Mary's, said: "I feel angry and frustrated because there's nothing we can do. A group of us will be seeking a meeting with the diocese and the board of governors."

John Grady, spokesman for the diocese, said: "Foundation governors, by their very nature, are people who carry out the wishes of the foundation, which in this instance is the Roman Catholic diocese of Leeds." He said the Church has no option but to close Mount St Mary's, after a decline in Catholic pupil numbers in the area.

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