Cambridgeshire

Peterborough Roman Catholic primary gets green light

primary school classroom Image copyright Dave Thompson/PA
Image caption The new school will eventually cater for 630 pupils

A council has approved the first state-funded Catholic school to be built in England for more than a decade.

Plans for the primary school at the new Hampton Water development in Peterborough were approved on Wednesday night, despite an 11th-hour challenge from three city councillors.

The school has been criticised over "discriminatory" selection criteria.

Jonathan Lewis, of Peterborough City Council, said: "Meeting local need is always the priority."

It will open to 90 children in 2022, growing to accommodate 630 pupils.

The government will pay 90% of the estimated £11m-£15m cost, with the city council contributing between £1.1m and £1.5m.

Campaigners said the decision was "discriminatory" for prioritising pupils on faith, while there are concerns over increased traffic on the nearby A15.

If the school is oversubscribed, it will make selection 80% Catholic faith-based, with the rest chosen by proximity.

The council said the admissions policy would be "reviewed annually by the school governing body".

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The new school will make selection 80% Catholic - if it is oversubscribed

Mr Lewis, director of education, said the criteria for primary school admission was "never an exact science".

"Ultimately we have an obligation to provide school places and we feel the proposal is a positive one," he said.

"We have looked at the numbers and I'm very confident that in the Hampton area there are four other schools within a mile, so we can meet that need."

There are currently 25 schools within the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia.

Parent Tracy Butler, who protested at the meeting, said she was "disgusted" the council "didn't vote with its conscience".

"We want a school that all local children can go to," she said.

"There are families here of different faiths and no faiths and the council has taken that choice away."

Joseph McCrossan, head teacher of St Alban's Roman Catholic Primary School in Cambridge, said faith schools across the diocese were largely mixed.

"In my experience Catholic schools look at the wider community, at global issues, at other faiths, cultures and values. We celebrate that."

A Department for Education spokesman said voluntary-aided schools were "among the best-performing in the country and are valued by parents for their strong and positive ethos".

"Priority was given to schools that support integration and inclusivity when considering applications to help fund new voluntary aided schools," a statement said.

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