2,500 more Primary places
promised by Council
Catholic Herald Reporter
LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL this week took the first step in a major new scheme to increase Catholic primary school places in the London area. It finally confirmed an agreement with the Westminster and Southwark Diocesan Schools' Commission which will provide 2,500 new places in Catholic primary schools between now and 1965.
This will bring the total number of places in Catholic primary schools in the London area to 32,500, or about 65 per cent. of the estimated total number of Catholic children baptised in the London area each year.
Mgr. Edward Mahony, secretary of the Southwark Schools Commission, described the agreement as "a tremendous breakthrough in the battle to provide sufficient school-places for our primary school-children". He said the Diocesan authorities were "very pleased with the agreement which brings an almost unexpected easement of our problems".
A Westminster Diocesan School Commission spokesman also expressed great satisfaction at the outcome of the agreement, particularly because the increase sanctioned was within the financial means of the diocese.
The new agreement follows a complete review by the LCC of primary school needs in the London area. Catholic demands for additional places were first submitted last August. In OctoberNovember, full statistical analyses of the situation and projections of the future needs, prepared by the Newman Demographic Survey, were submitted to the LCC. Between January and April, a series of meetings took place between LCC education experts and diocesan representatives and the new agreement was the result.
It provides: 1. An additional 1,500 new school places in the LCC area north of the river (which comes into the Westminster Archdiocese) and 1,000 in the area south of the river (Southwark diocese).
2. Short-term measures such as providing temporary accommodation in rooms or buildings not previously sanctioned by the Ministry for use as schoolrooms.
3. A complete review of every Catholic primary school in the LCC area will be carried out to decide the best method of providing the extra accommodation needed. New schools may be built.
4. The Diocesan Commissions accepted, in consideration of the extra place allocation, the LCC demand to match the accommodation standards in county schools, concerning numbers per class, amenity-rooms, etc. As a first step, school-managers have been asked to agree to "freezing" their numbers at their maximum summer roll or their maximum "legitimate" accommodation whichever is greater.
5. The new agreement is designed to cater for Catholic primary school needs up to 1965 and is "without prejudice" to any further increases after that.
The cost of providing the new school places will fall on the Catholic authorities. This is likely to work out at roughly £250,000 in the Westminster Archdiocese and up to the same amount in the case of Southwark.
The Westminster spokesman said that an even greater problem than providing the money will be finding the sites.
"We will probably have to build five new schools," he added, "and we are trying desperately to get cleared sites in the areas where the greatest pressure will be."
He also paid great tribute to the head-teachers in schools who had provided the statistics required for this and other reviews. "It is fair to say that without their co-operation we could never have got so far so fast."
Mgr. Mahony said that the site problem was less acute in the Southwark diocese. Several sites were already available and LCC experts and diocesan representatives this week visited a number of them to make a preliminary survey.