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Anger as council rejects challenge to Catholic school unfairly imposed on newbuild community

Residents of Hampton Water in Peterborough have expressed anger after the City Council informed them that it would not overturn a decision to open the most religiously selective school in over a decade in the area – in spite of there being almost no residents in the new build estate at the time the school was approved, and widespread local opposition among residents who have moved in since.

The Council made the statement in response to a petition which Humanists UK worked with local activists to produce. It asks the Council to reconsider its approval of the bid for St John Henry Newman Catholic Primary School in light of the fact ‘that sufficient demand for Catholic school places was never established and the plan is not appropriate to the needs of the majority of Hampton residents, including those who have moved into the area since the decision was made.’

However, Peterborough City Council says its assessment of the proposal was conducted ‘in adherence to Government guidance and the council’s own policy cannot be overturned.’

During a virtual residents’ meeting held this week, attendees noted that very few residents lived on the newbuild Hampton Water estate at the time the Council ran the consultation, so it was impossible to know if there would be local demand. Hundreds of new families have moved into the new development where the school will be situated since the original consultation was conducted. In addition, many houses have yet to be occupied and still more are set to be built in future. This concern was highlighted by local humanist, Michael MacBean, at a Council meeting to debate the proposal when the decision was taken last year.

The residents also expressed their view that the statutory consultation relating to the proposal was seriously flawed, with the Council admitting at the time that it ‘[had] not been possible to determine whether, and if so, to what degree, there [had] been any duplication’ in responses received. With this said, it is worth noting that just 144 of the responses to the statutory consultation came from Hampton residents and 88% of those disagreed with the proposal.

Local resident Tracy Butler said:

‘We are extremely disappointed that Peterborough City Council is refusing to reconsider its decision to open this discriminatory religious school in Hampton Water, particularly as hundreds of new families have moved on to the development since that decision was made.

‘Many of those families have young children and bought their houses thinking they would be able to go to school nearby. Now they are discovering that either their children will be locked out of their local school by a religiously selective admissions policy or, to secure a place, they will have to sign up for a school which says “Catholic doctrine permeates every aspect” of its activity. This is clearly not going to be suitable for many people, particularly those who want a school that treats all religions and beliefs equally.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham added:

‘The process by which the Council settled on this divisive faith school was flawed from the outset and throughout. Demand for Catholic places in the local area was never established precisely because, as a new development, Hampton Water had very few residents to consult – although those that were consulted were largely against the proposal, as are many of those who have arrived subsequently.

‘We strongly urge the Council to look again at this decision and do all it can to make sure that the residents of Hampton Water get the inclusive community ethos school they plainly want.’

Humanists UK is currently fundraising for the salary and resourcing costs of its dedicated education campaigner. If you’re a supporter of Humanists UK’s vision for a fairer education system then please donate at www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read the petition.

Read our almost recent article on the two faith schools given the green light by the Government.

Read our article on Catholic school RSE resources that say ‘man was created to be the initiator in sexual relationships’, women ‘receiver-responders’.

Read our article on data showing the number of pupils attending Church of England schools is more than the entire ‘worshipping community’.

Read more about our work on faith schools and religious selection.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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