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Two stray from Catholic flock

Clare Dean and Jon Slater report on a TES survey of grant-maintained schools' decisions on new status

ONLY two out of 150 Roman Catholic grant-maintained schools are prepared to defy bishops by refusing to return to Church control once the opted-out sector is abolished, a survey by The TES has revealed.

The schools - a primary in London and a secondary in Liverpool - have chosen the new foundation status and now risk being cut off from the Church.

Grant-maintained schools had until last Friday to make their prelimary decisions about whether to go for foundation, voluntary or community status.

Bishops had sent a letter warning schools that those choosing anything other than voluntary-aided status would stop being Catholic from next September.

Brother Francis Patterson, head of St Francis Xavier College, said his governors had refused to bow to pressure. The archdiocese of Liverpool has asked for a list of the names and addresses of parents.

If 20 per cent of parents disagree with the governors' prelimary decision, they can call for a ballot. The final decision rests with the Secretary of State.

The decision by the Liverpool secondary to opt for foundation status was made at a two-and-a-half hour meeting of governors. It was not unanimous.

At the London primary, which wishes to remain anonymous, the decision had the backing of all governors.

The head said the school did not want to be beholden to the diocese for capital works.

Margaret Smart, director of the Catholic Education Service, said bishops would want a cast-iron assurance that the two schools would protect the Catholic nature of their schools.

"Frankly I don't see how they will be able to do it," she said.

The TES survey of the 150 schools had a 74 per cent response rate with 106 opting for voluntary status and three not commenting.

More than 70 GM Catholic schools had previously told The TES that they did not want to return to diocesan control. They feared recrimination from dioceses - many of whom were hostile to opting out - and were also anxious about their financial future.

But after receiving the letter sent to governors from their local bishops, heads said they had little choice.

Paul Barras, head of Hugh Farringdon School in Berkshire: "It doesn't feel like we're being welcomed back. It seems like we're the black sheep."

"We had no choice after the directive from the Bishops," said a Hertfordshire head.

"Our arms have been twisted and we are going back reluctantly," said one from Wiltshire.

Bishops' battle, page 7

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