By PETER NOLAN
Catholic parents feel Church authorities have betrayed them by giving in to Government pressure and making Catholic schools go comprehensive, said Mr Norman St John-Stevas, Conservative spokesman on Education, this week.
He has started a national campaign to preserve directgrant schools, 56 of' which are Catholic, about a third of the total. He opened his campaign as Mr Reg Prentice, Secretary of State for Education, announced this week that phasing out of direct-grant schools would probably start in September 1976.
Church grammar schools could only lose control of their destinies by committing suicide, Mr St John-Stevas told a meeting of over 600 parents in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, last week.
By statute only the governing body of a school was entitled to put forward plans for its reorganisation — neither the Secretary of State nor the local education authority had power to do so, he said.
He thought Mr Prentice's attack might be contrary to the religious articles laid down in the 1944 Education Act.
Mr Ernest Armstrong, Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education, this week told the Labour Party's local government conference in Manchester that the Government would not put up with any unnecessary delay from local authorities in introducing cornprehensivisation. Mr Armstrong said: "Some voluntary aided schools in the system, fortunately few and getting fewer, present great difficulties to certain local authorities, We are ready to discuss the future of such schools and their place as comprehensive schools in the maintained sector. We want their cooperation."
Ile added that the Government was "actively considering legislative action" should some schools or authorities try to continue selection, but would rather have co-operation than use force.
There are over 3,000 Catholic schools in England and Wales with nearly one million pupils. Official Catholic policy is to provide Catholic schools for Catholic children and the Catholic Education Council has no objection to comprehensivisation when it does not conflict with this policy.
Mr St John-Stevas plans to address further meetings in Manchester and Liverpool and call on parents to stand by their schools, which have rights guaranteed by law.
Norman St John-Stevas p4