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Catholic Union hails “landmark” free school decision

The Catholic Union has welcomed the announcement by the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, to lift the cap on new free schools in England.

The decision paves the way for Catholic free schools to open, having previously been excluded under the 50 percent cap or ‘rule’ which would have forced schools to turn away some Catholic pupils.

Ms Keegan announced the decision in a written statement to Parliament today (Wednesday 1 May), with the change subject to a seven-week consultation.

While there have been efforts to lift the cap since it was first introduced in 2010, the decision follows a new campaign launched by the Catholic Union last year.

Over 1,000 people signed the Catholic Union’s open letter to the Education Secretary, calling on her to “scrap the cap” and allow Catholic free schools to open.

Former Education Secretary and Catholic Union Vice President, Ruth Kelly, described the move as a “vote of confidence” in Catholic education. Conservative MP, Sir Edward Leigh, who served as President of the Catholic Union until last year, called it a “landmark decision”.

While the Government has signalled their intention to lift the cap, the change is still subject to a public consultation which closes on 20 June. The Catholic Union is urging people to take part in the consultation to make sure the change is finally delivered.

Catholic Union Vice President, Rt Hon Ruth Kelly, comments: “I’m delighted that the Education Secretary has taken this decision. The Catholic Church is one of the oldest providers of education in this country, and Catholic schools consistently produce higher than average results. The fact that Catholic free schools were prevented from opening never made sense. Lifting the cap will finally allow Catholics to join other faith groups in being able to open free schools. This decision is well-earned recognition of the success of our schools and a vote of confidence in Catholic education in general.”

Former Catholic Union President, Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh, comments: “This is a great victory for Catholic education and common sense. For years we have been trying to make Ministers see sense on this and allow Catholic free schools to open. I’m delighted that this Secretary of State has taken the decision to lift the cap. It is a relatively minor change, but it will make a big difference to the Catholic community in this country. For this reason, it is a landmark decision and I hope the Government will now make sure the policy is changed before the next General Election.”

Catholic Union Deputy Director, James Somerville-Meikle, comments: “There have been efforts to lift the cap ever since it was first introduced in 2010. The most recent campaign was led by the Catholic laity, with over 1,000 people across the country signing our open letter to Gillian Keegan. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign so far. We will need your help again over the coming weeks to respond to this consultation to make sure that we finally scrap the cap and give more young people the benefit of a Catholic education.”