New Catholic school in Peterborough set to be approved

A new Roman Catholic school in Peterborough is set to be approved by the city council, despite vocal opposition.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:53 pm

The new primary school will open in the new Hampton Water development in 2022 after the council signalled it will give it the go ahead.

The authority has published a decision notice indicating that it is planning to sign off on the new school, with the Diocese of East Anglia changing its original admissions criteria so it is not 100 per cent faith based.

Instead, if the school is oversubscribed 20 per cent of the pupils will be chosen based on their proximity to it rather than on religious grounds.

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Hampton Water residents who campaigned against having a faith school

Helen Bates, assistant director (schools service) at the Diocese of East Anglia, said: “We are delighted to hear that Peterborough City Council has decided to approve a new Catholic primary school in the Hamptons following its consultation last year.

“We understand that there now follows a five-day period during which the decision can be called-in by city councillors. We will continue to work closely with the city council during this period.”

The Government had already given its approval for the new primary, but it was left up to the city council to make the final decision following a public consultation which it said showed overwhelming support for the school.

This is despite residents living in Hampton Water starting a petition against the school due to it “discriminating” based on faith and because of an increase in traffic from the A15.

Responding to the news, the National Secular Society said it will explore the possibility of a legal challenge.

Its chief executive Stephen Evans said: “It’s deeply disappointing that Peterborough City Council is set to approve a new discriminatory Catholic school, particularly as that seems likely to mean an inclusive, secular alternative will now not be able to open.

“Many local residents will wonder why their taxes are going to fund a school which explicitly promotes religious beliefs and discriminates against their children on a religious basis in its admissions policy. The school’s all-encompassing religious ethos will be alienating for many families and infringe on children’s independent right to make their own minds up about religion.

“Politicians both locally and nationally must be willing to stand up to religious groups when they make unreasonable demands which infringe on children’s rights and undermine social cohesion.”

In total, there were 1,911 responses to the council’s consultation, with 83 per cent (1,585) in favour of the new school and 17 per cent (326) against it.

The Diocese ran its own consultation prior to the council’s which it said showed 82 per cent of respondents (941 people) ‘strongly agreed’ with the proposal to establish the Catholic school, compared to just 8.4 per cent (96 people) who said that they ‘strongly disagreed’ with the proposal.

The new maintained voluntary aided school is now due to open in September 2022, initially for 90 pupils before eventually reaching 630.

It will also have a 30 place nursery.

It is being 90 per cent funded by the Government, with the council having to pay between £1.1 million and £1.5 million.

If the council had rejected the diocese’s application then it risked having to pay for a new school in Hampton Water on its own.

On the subject of admissions, the authority said it will be “reviewed annually by the school governing body. Where any change to the admission arrangements is proposed, the governing body will consult in accordance with statutory requirements”.

The council added that it was “satisfied” that the diocese will be able to “fulfil all of the requirements regarding its responsibilities around integration and community”.

And on the subject of traffic, it said: “The fact that a number of pupils may travel to the new school from outside the Hamptons East development is not a reason to refuse the opening of the proposed school”.

Hampton Water is part of the Hamptons East development which, when completed, will see 3,050 new homes built.