by Christopher Howse CATHOLIC schools throughout the country face closure if local authorities go through with threats to stop paying for transport to them.
Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire County Councils will both be asked to give the go ahead within the next fortnight to proposals to do away with all assistance to children travelling to their nearest Catholic school. Berkshire. Croydon and Enfield are also set to follow suit.
Edmund Campion comprehensive school in Oxford may have to amalgamate with the local Church of England school, at Cowley St John's, according to Councillor Bob Walsh, a member of the committee behind parents' opposition tO the council proposals.
In Lincolnshire, the axing of transport grants is expected to save £50,000 a year. But it could mean the closure of five Catholic schools in the county. In Lincoln itself three schools could close; at St Hugh's First School. 50 out of the 100 pupils would be affected. Parents would be faced with a bill of 0.50 a week per child.
Fr Michael Bell of Grantham said "If they get away with this it will certainly be the end of the two schools in this parish." But parents and Catholic authorities are fighting a last ditch battle to save the schools.
Catholic schools are specially vulnerable to transport cuts because they take pupils from a wider area than the
neighbourhood nondenominational comprehensive schools. Until now it was understood that the obligations of the 1944 Education Act to provide transport to the nearest appropriate school meant paying for Catholic children to go to Catholic schools. But councils are prepared to try flouting this understanding even though the 1980 Education Act limits their powers to cut transport assistance.
The Catholic Education Council, a department of the. Bishops' Commission for Education, have sought advice as to the legality of council proposals and are expecting counsel's opinion this week. Mr Richard Cunningham, the Education Council's secretary said: "We are confident that our legal position will prove encouraging."
Parents are encouraged to write to county councillors and stress the value of denominational schools and the unprofitability of cuts that could close Catholic schools. Council elections are due in May.