Apology issued after Peterborough church accuses residents of ‘anti-Catholic feeling’ over new school

An apology has been issued to residents in Hampton after a church newsletter accused them of spreading “lies” and “anti-Catholic feeling” over a new primary school.

By Joel Lamy
Monday, 8th February 2021, 4:59 am

A statement has been published on the website of St Luke’s Catholic Church in Benyon Grove, Orton Malborne, after a backlash to the comments regarding the new St John Henry Newman School which is due to open in Hampton Water next year.

The maintained voluntary aided school run by the Diocese of East Anglia school will be the first state-funded Catholic school in England for more than 10 years, but its admissions policy has angered residents who fear their child will miss out on a place.

If the school is oversubscribed then 20 per cent of the pupils will be chosen based on their proximity to it, with 80 per cent selected on religious grounds.

An architect’s impression of the new school. Photo: DLA Architecture

The school’s shadow governing body recently tried to calm tensions by telling residents that any local child wanting a place is expected to get one.

The school is planned to open initially for 90 pupils before eventually reaching 630.

It will also have a 30 place nursery.

The newsletter issued by St Luke’s stated: “Work is now far advanced on the design and preparations.

“Some misinformation, lies and anti-Catholic feeling persist in the Hampton, however, this ignorance will be dealt with as we go along.”

City councillors John Howard and Mohammed Farooq told the Peterborough Telegraph: “Many residents approached us with their concerns regarding the article that was published in the St Luke’s Parish newsletter.

“We took their concerns immediately to the diocese who have subsequently removed the article and have issued an apology. We are very pleased an apology has been issued and we continue to work with residents and the diocese on the progress of the new school.”

A statement on the church’s website states: “The diocese has been made aware of a short paragraph published in the recent St Luke’s Parish newsletter which has caused concern and upset to some Hampton residents. This was not the intention of the statement and for this we apologise.

“The statement was a response to the hurt felt by a number of Catholic parishioners as a result of the campaign against the school. Unfortunately, there has been some inaccurate information presented, particularly in relation to admissions to the school, which is why the diocese has published some FAQs in an attempt to correct some of this information (https://st-johnhenrynewman.org.uk/faqs/).

“The diocese firmly believes that St John Henry Newman School will be a Catholic school that serves its local community.”

Hampton Water resident Michael Butt said: “As a long-standing and respected member of Hampton Water I am deeply saddened by the offensive comments made via this platform towards our community. Under no circumstances should anybody be articulating the need to deal with anything, nor is there any misinformation, lies or anti-Catholic feeling being portrayed around the area.”