No faith in Peterborough faith school consultation process
On Monday 27th January, Peterborough City Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Education approved proposals to build a Roman Catholic Primary School in the growing community of Hampton Water.
If built, this will be the first publicly-funded faith school to be approved in this country in a decade, writes Nicola Day, Deputy Leader of the Green Group on Peterborough City Council.
Three city councillors (Terri Haynes and Nick Sandford of the Liberal Democrats and myself) have decided to challenge what we believe to be a controversial decision. We are making use of the council’s ‘call-in’ procedure, a public meeting where the decision will be scrutinised, challenged and debated.
We decided to call in this particular decision because we do not agree that the council went to sufficient lengths to reach everyone with an interest in the consultation. The Government’s consultation principles direct local councils to consider targeting specific groups (if appropriate) to ensure they are aware of a consultation and can access it. Although the council went to the effort of promoting the consultation in the Peterborough Telegraph, online and through social media, we assert that insufficient efforts were made to inform residents of the details of the proposal and how the creation of the school might impact their families.
Unsurprisingly, emotions are running high amongst some Hampton Water residents who feel angry about what they perceive to be a lack of information and insufficient communication during the consultation phase of the project. Those who took part in the consultation were uncertain whether their comments made any impact on the Cabinet member’s final decision.
We are also concerned that this may not be an isolated incident. What of the council’s other public consultations? Do you feel that you are always sufficiently consulted over proposals that would have a major impact on your local community? If you have taken part in a council consultation, do you believe you were truly listened to, and your opinions taken into account?
The key question that many parents would like to know the answer to is this: Can a school with 80% faith-based admission criteria cater for all local children within a growing community like Hampton Water?
Meanwhile, the national “No More Faith Schools” Campaign asserts that faith schools “Have a negative impact on social cohesion, foster segregation of children on social, ethnic and religious lines, and undermine choice and equality”. It says that faith schools also enable religious groups to use public money to evangelise to children.
The implications of building faith-based schools with public money need serious consideration. Is it right to use public money to fund schools that exclude children of other, and no faith? Is it right to provide public services to one particular religious group at the exclusion of others?
The Council’s Children and Education Scrutiny Committee will meet at the Town Hall on 12 th February to challenge and discuss the council’s decision to approve the proposal to build a faith school in Hampton Water at a special ‘call-in’ meeting.
The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome to attend.