BY MARK GREAVES
FOUR SCHOOLS may be replaced by a single, Catholic academy in a bold attempt to preserve a Church presence in education in Rugby.
The decision by Warwickshire County Council, the local education authority, to close Bishop Wulstan Business and Enterprise College would leave parents in Rugby without the option of sending their teenagers to a Catholic school.
But, in a proposal drawn up by the Archdiocese of Birmingham, Bishop Wulstan school and three primary schools would be replaced by an academy that would serve 1,000 pupils from the ages of three to 16.
The move is aimed at reinvigorating the parish community in Rugby and providing a continuous Catholic education from an early age.
The plan has been made in response to overwhelming support shown by parents and the local community for Bishop Wulstan school and the Catholic education it provided. The county council argues that poor results and a low intake of pupils mean that the school is no longer viable.
Brendan Higgins, headteacher of Bishop Wulstan, welcomed the plan. `The proposed academy is a visionary model for the future of Catholic education," he said. "The strength of support from parents, governors, staff and the wider community, including councillors from across the political spectrum, has made this vision possible."
The archdiocese, as sponsor, would contribute £2 million, and the rest — in the
region of f 18 million — would be provided by the Government. The proposal will be drawn up within the next two months and, if accepted, would establish only the third academy in the UK to be sponsored by the Church.
The school would also absorb English Martyrs Primary and St Marie Infant and Junior schools. Two locations may be developed in the east and west of Rugby, although existing sites will be considered as well.
According to Fr Philip Sainter the move would "reinvigorate" the parishes in Rugby. "It would re-establish the identity of Catholic education in our town," he said. "There would be a natural progression in the kind of education given in both primary and secondary."
Fr Marcus Stock, director of schools for the Birmingham archdiocese, has met Government officials who have encouraged him to explore the plan further. He has also received strong support from parish priests. "We believe it is a way of strengthening the Catholic community in Rugby," he said.
"It would provide a faith education in the Catholic tradition not just for Catholic children but for children of all faiths, or none."
He argued that an academy school would allow parents and governors flexibility to meet the specific needs of pupils. "There's a long journey ahead and it would require the support of the governors of all the schools they need to be willing participants," said Fr Stock. "But I've been struck by the vision of the governing bodies to at least explore this principle."