St Mary's College: Free school plan abandoned in Crosby

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image captionSt Mary's would stop charging fees if it became a free school

A school whose past pupils include the Archbishop of Westminster says the Roman Catholic Church has forced it to abandon a bid to become a free school.

St Mary's College in Crosby, Merseyside, said as a free school it would accept children from "disadvantaged backgrounds".

But the principal said the bid had been scrapped after Liverpool Archdiocese refused to back the plan.

Nobody from Liverpool Archdiocese was available for comment.

The move was rejected by the recently-installed Archbishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev Malcolm McMahon, who is chair of the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales.

It is church policy to oppose free schools because there is a 50% cap on Catholic admissions.

St. Mary's Principal Mike Kennedy said, "Obviously we are disappointed that we have been forced to withdraw our free school application, because we felt it represented an exciting opportunity for us to widen access to the excellent education we offer."

He said the plans had been strongly supported by parents.

image copyrightPA/Reuters
image captionThe school's alumni include a cardinal, a poet and a peer

Mr Kennedy said the school could have become a wider Christian school but this was not supported by the Congregation of Christian Brothers, the religious order which founded the school and still owns the land.

He added: "St Mary's College will continue as an independent Catholic school... we will also carry on exploring ways to raise further funds to enable us to welcome more pupils from families who may be unable to afford school fees."

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, attended the school.

Other ex-pupils include former BBC Director General Lord Birt and poet Roger McGough.

Previously the archdiocese has said the admissions cap "is not a secure basis for the provision of a Catholic school."

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