Tayside and Central Scotland

Falkirk Council plans Catholic school admissions change

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Image caption Demand is high for places at denominational schools in the Falkirk area

Falkirk Council has proposed a shake-up of its admission policy for Roman Catholic schools.

Denominational schools in the area are over-subscribed, and last summer nearly 40 pupils had to be refused enrolment.

The authority recommends altering policy so only pupils with a baptismal certificate would be guaranteed entry to Roman Catholic schools.

The move has been criticised as "religious discrimination" by opponents including the Scottish Secular Society.

The council has carried out an eight-week consultation on the proposals, which would see only pupils who can "demonstrate affiliation to the Roman Catholic church by means of a baptismal certificate" eligible to enrol at their catchment denominational school, with all other students required to submit to a placing request.

After mixed responses to the consultation, the authority's education executive will meet to discuss the proposal next month.

Growing demand

The authority has been struggling with capacity at denominational schools in recent years, with a new primary school, St Bernadette's, opened in Stenhousemuir in August 2012.

While it was built to reduce pressure on St Andrew's and St Francis Xavier's primary schools, all available spaces at the new school have already been filled.

In August 2013 the council capped intake at all feeder schools to St Mungo's High School in a bid to prevent over-subscription in the long term, which saw nearly 40 pupils denied enrolment and no places reserved for pupils likely to move to the area.

With waiting lists growing, and the council legally obliged to offer a denominational education to Roman Catholic families, the authority proposed the changes to the admissions legislation.

'Religious discrimination'

Of the individuals contacted for the consultation, staff came back 100% in favour of the plans, while parents were split 56% in favour and 44% against.

Parent councils were in favour of the proposal, as were the Catholic Church and the Larbert, Torwood and Stenhousemuir Community Council.

However, Shieldhill and California Community Council opposed the plans over concerns that they were "discriminatory".

The Scottish Secular Society also voiced strong opposition.

It said the plans meant Catholic parents who had just moved to the area and who lived closer to non-denominational schools than the local Catholic school would have a greater chance of winning a place at the Catholic school than a non-Catholic family who had lived opposite the school since before their children were born.

Chairman Spencer Fildes said the council "should not be seeking to expedite religious discrimination because a child's parents have differing faiths or indeed no faith".

Councillors will discuss the plans on 11 November.

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