BY TOM BROOKS-POLLOCK A NEW PRIMARY school in Cambridge could be run by the Catholic Church under controversial plans submitted to the city’s education authority by the Diocese of East Anglia.
The school, currently being built on the site of the old Netherhall School, would teach Catholic children living in 13 catchment areas in the south of the city.
But the site is the subject of a rival bid from the Queen Edith Community Federation, which runs Queen Edith’s primary school in the catchment area in which the new school is being built.
The Queen Edith bid, in contrast to the Church’s proposals, foresees the new school being open to all children from three catchment areas in the immediate area surrounding the school: Morley Memorial, Ridgefield and Queen Edith’s itself.
At issue is the degree of need for places among Catholic and non-Catholic children in the city. Both bids say that existing schools are oversubscribed and that their proposals are essential for meeting the demand for places among parents.
Paul Rossi, deputy director of schools services for the diocese, said: “There is a proven need for more Catholic places. At present those families who wish to send their children to a Catholic school in the area are not able to do so. Catholic schools are known locally and nationally as providers of excellent education with very high standards of care for all their pupils of all faiths and none.” But some local councillors are backing the Queen Edith bid, saying the diocese’s bid would create traffic congestion while not serving the needs of the community in the immediate vicinity.
Councillor Amanda Taylor, who represents Queen Edith’s ward, said: “If they [the diocese] are successful, this will mean very few places left over for children living near the school, so it won’t address the shortage of places in this area.” Meanwhile, the Diocese of Salford has announced it is to pull out of a primary school in Blackburn, Lancashire, after the proportion of Catholic pupils fell to only three per cent. The number of pupils coming from non-Catholic backgrounds at Sacred Heart Primary has risen from seven to 95 per cent in the past decade, with a large number of Asian families moving into the surrounding area.
A report published by Blackburn Council said the diocese had withdrawn after it had been unable to recruit a new permanent headteacher for the school. It said Sacred Heart could be reopened as a voluntary-aided school run by the council, or as an Islamic school.