As expected the council announced on Monday that it was given the go ahead for the Diocese of East Anglia to proceed with the maintained voluntary aided primary school at the new development off the A15, making it the first state-funded Catholic school in England for more than 10 years.
Cabinet member for education Cllr Lynne Ayres signed off on the 630 place school and accompanying nursery, which will both open in 2022, despite claims from opponents that it will be “discriminatory” against non-Catholics.
The school’s selection criteria will see it select 80 per cent of its pupils based on faith and 20 per cent on location if it is oversubscribed, although its governing body will review the selection process every year.
The council’s decision to approve the new school after a four week consultation - and prior approval from the Government - has been appealed (called-in) by three councillors who claimed that of the 1,911 responses received, just seven per cent were submitted from residents who live in the area where the school would be built, and only 7.2 per in Peterborough in total.
However, the council has now pointed out that only 441 of the respondents put where they live as it was not mandatory for them to do so, meaning it is not known where the others live.
The decision to approve the primary school has prompted anger from residents in Hampton Water who campaigned against it and even started their own petition.
Many of them said they felt let down at buying their new home, only to find out later that their children may not be able to attend the local school due to their faith.
Michael Butt said: “This is a shocking decision, and in my opinion this is completely unethical and discriminatory in an age where we embrace multi-cultural societies and encourage teaching of all religions and faiths.”
Mr Butt highlighted an increase in traffic from parents travelling to and from the school as an issue.
Stephen Fleming said he was “angered, bemused, deeply saddened and in despair” at the council’s decision.
He claimed that the process had been “managed unfairly” with the residents’ “genuine objections and concerns” not listened to, adding: “I was brought up as a Catholic myself but now my children, who I choose to bring up outside of that faith, are going to be discriminated against and unable to attend the school that should serve our community.
“This breeds the opposite of inclusion and I’m saddened that this narrow-minded process can be supported in 2020.”
Sharon Grooms said: “How do we know that a vast majority of these responses were not made by Catholics stemming the whole of the country who are very much in favour of Catholic schools wishing to promote their religion?”
She added: “My daughter is due to start school in September 2022. We live on Hampton Water and when we bought the house we were told there was a new school to be built to cater for the new estate. Simple. But it now appears that this isn’t the case.”
Tracy Butler said: “Residents are angry that a decision like this has been made in an era of trying to educate our children on equal opportunities and inclusion. This decision has come from someone who does not care about people but money.
“This school should be accessible to all children as it is publicly funded.”
The school is being 90 per cent funded by the Government with the council having to pay between £1.1 million and £1.5 million. The authority could have to pay substantially more if it rejected the Catholic school.
Vicki Udell also complained that residents’ concerns had not been listened to, and that their petition opposing the school required people signing it to give their full addresses, which was not the case for the consultation.
Cllr Ayres defended the consultation, saying it had been widely publicised in a “variety of ways”, including through social media, the local media and in a residents’ e-newsletter.
Asked about the claims from councillors Terri Haynes and Nick Sandford (Lib Dems) and Nicola Day (Green Party) - who have called-in the decision to approve the Catholic school - that fewer than eight per cent of people from Peterborough responded to the consultation, she said: “The Department for Education guidelines which must be followed through the consultation and representation state that this should be an open consultation which anyone can respond to.
“Because of this, we are not able to provide the breakdown of responses based on whether or not someone lived in the area unless they included their postcode which was not a mandatory field.”
Of the 1,911 responses to the council’s consultation, 1,585 (83 per cent) were in favour of the Catholic school.
A council scrutiny committee will now hear the call-in.
Members will be able to ask Cllr Ayres to re-think her decision if a majority are swayed by the arguments put forward by the opponents of the new school.
Agree (with the new school) - 17
Disagree - 127
Wider Peterborough postcode
Agree - 222
Disagree - 75
Agree - 1,346
Disagree - 124