“In their General Election manifesto, the Conservative Party made a commitment to the Catholic community that the unfair rule effectively stopping the opening of new Catholic free schools would be lifted. Today the Government has broken this promise, dropped the pledge they made to our country’s six million Catholics and ignored the tens of thousands of Catholics who campaigned on this issue.
“This U-turn disregards the Government’s own data showing the 50% cap doesn’t create diversity, and sides with a vocal minority of campaigners who oppose the existence of Church schools. Catholic schools are popular with parents of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds, despite this we will remain barred from participating in the free school programme.
“The Catholic Church has had a long and positive relationship with the State in the provision of education and we see today’s decision as a regressive step in this historic partnership.
“We remain committed to our vision of education which consistently delivers high-quality schooling and contributes to the common good. Therefore we will continue to work with the Department for Education to address the urgent demand for new Catholic schools. This commitment means we will pursue the possibility of new Catholic voluntary aided schools despite the direction of travel for nearly a decade being towards academisation.
“Voluntary aided schools are an important part of the Catholic sector and it is significant that the Government has singled out Catholic education as an area to fund directly. This is rightly in recognition of the importance of Catholic schools to local communities and the contribution they make to the wellbeing of society.”
The Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP
Archbishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Department for Education & Formation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales