BY ED WEST
THIRTY-SEVEN Catholic primary and secondary schools are to become academies this year after the Government approved their applications.
Among the schools that will opt out of local authority control are the flagship London Oratory School in Fulham, the hugely successful St Joseph’s College in Stokeon-Trent and several schools in Bishop Malcolm McMahon’s Nottingham diocese. On top of this there are four Catholic-sponsored academies and four joint Catholic and Church of England-sponsored academies.
The schools, 11 of which have finalised the process, will have far greater control over their budgets and curriculum. They follow about 150 schools classed as “outstanding” which became academies during the first round of conversions last year.
The changes have been made with the apparent blessing of the Church hierarchy, after the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) was initially hostile to the changing status. Last year Chief Executive Oona Stannard said: “We would be very unwise to trade this for an uncertain future and a higher level of risk.” But after the Government addressed Church concerns about land ownership and the rights of trustees, Bishop McMahon, chairman of the CESEW, announced in February that Catholic schools could become academies. Among the schools ranked as outstanding by Ofsted to have been approved is the Becket School in Nottingham. It will join other schools in the diocese in forming a combined local academies trust, with the diocese as trustee.
But, not all dioceses have allowed their schools to go ahead. Mgr Kevin McGinnell, director of education for the Diocese of Northampton, said officials were still deciding whether to go ahead.
He said: “No schools from our diocese have so far applied to become academies. Our diocese and others are still considering the academies question and we are awaiting information on the programme.” But Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, one of the dioceses that had given the go-ahead, said his diocese was deciding on a case-bycase basis to allow schools to change “according to whether it benefits that school and the Church in that area”.
A total of 1,568 schools expressed interest in becoming academies last year, among them were 84 Catholic schools.
Educational feature: Page 11