by David Browne
Catholic Parents in Reading. Berkshire, are raising a pet;tion to Mrs Shirley Williams, the Education Secretary, to get her to change her mind over blocking free places at ,he town's two Catholic secondary schools.
Berkshire County Council has been told it can no longer pay for Catholic children to attend Presentation College and St Joseph's Convent. Both schools are independent grammar schools. In a similar row last year, the Department of Education allowed the county to take up 55 places at each school, but the DES notified Berkshire County Education chiefs a few days ago that approval would not be given this year.
The decision has angered parents because there are likely to be 280 Catholic children looking for secondary school places in September, and only 120 can be taken in by Hugh Farringdon School which is Reading's only maintained Catholic secondary school.
The parents associations of St Joseph's and Presentation College handed in a petition to a meeting of the education subcommittee of Berkshire County Council on Wednesday hoping to get the authority to appeal against the order.
The parents say that there has been no change in the provision of Catholic school places in the 12 months since the issue was first raised.
They make it clear in the petition that their complaint is not with the county council but with the DES, and have been assured that the county authority is sympathetic to their case.