CATHOLIC PARENTS WHO want to send their children to popular schools have been given new hope by the Education Secretary, John Patten.
In a policy U-turn, Mr Patten last week said that he may approve the expansion of grammar, single-sex, Church and successful comprehensive schools or the creation of new ones even if other schools in the same locality have surplus places.
The announcement, hailed as an important landmark by the Grant Maintained Schools Foundation, sweeps away the controversial rule that has allowed for the existence of unpopular schools with surplus places to block the development of popular schools. Already two popular Catholic Secondary schools in London have been earmarked for expansion by the new Funding Agency for
Schools in the first recommendation of its kind.
Subject to DFE approval, the John Fisher School and St Philomena's Catholic High School for Girls viill be asked to take 48 more boys and 30 more girls per yeat, respectively, to contribute ip solving the basic need situation in the London Borough of Sutton. By 1997, an extra 238 Secondary School places are required annually across the authority.
Robin Gregory, Headmaster at the popular John Fisher School, told the Catholic Herald: "we are very, very pleased with the recommendation, as ann+ ally we have a sense of fr r tration when we have to tu away first choice Catholi applicants. For many years we have enjoyed a consider-, able popularity: we have 132
standard admissions eact year, but have an excess f 220 applications."
In Birmingham, the Headteacher of St Joseph's primary school in Birmingham, told the Catholic Herald that he welcomed the proposed shift in Government policy on popular schools: "If it means that Catholic schools are allowed to expand to take Catholic children and still maintain a Catholic ethos, then it is a good thing. Our Catholic schools especially here in Birmingham are oversubscribed, with many nonCatholic parents trying to place their children in Catholic schools. This policy change could go a long way to help the situation."
IN A REPORT PUBLISHED this week, St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College in London the first Catholic College to be inspected by the Further Education Funding Council achieved the highest percentage rating to date, for the quality of its teaching.