St Richard Reynolds Catholic High School, a secondary school in Richmond-upon-Thames which was opened just over a year ago, has been allocated funding by the Government as part of the ‘priority school building programme’, a fund for ‘schools in need of urgent repair’. The school only opened in 2013 and in 2012 was subject to a judicial review by local parents and residents who formed the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC) and supported by British Humanist Association (BHA). The review was over whether or not there was a ‘need’ for a new school with a 100% discriminatory admissions policy or whether it was simply ‘desirable’. The court ruled against RISC and the BHA and the school went on to open despite the local opposition. The BHA and RISC have questioned why this funding is being diverted from schools in need which are open to all children to a highly selective school which the Catholic Diocese agreed to pay towards and which a High Court judge ruled was not even ‘needed’ in the first place.
In 2012 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster and the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames agreed to open a fully religiously selective school. The Council spent £8.5 million buying the site for the school and associated buildings and in return the Diocese agreed to spend £5-8 million renovating the buildings. The understanding at the time was that these were all the funds that were needed. As a result of the council having previously described the school as ‘needed’, ‘necessary’ and a ‘requirement’, the BHA and RISC decided to judicially review this decision, arguing that these statements meant the school should be a different type of school from the one proposed (as the law says that any ‘needed’ new school should be of this different type). This mattered because the other type of school could only select half of places on the basis of faith. However unfortunately the judge in the case decided that the council, when it had made these statements, had merely meant ‘desirable’.
The school subsequently opened in September 2013. Questions can now be asked about whether the Diocese has paid the Council all of the funds it promised it – given that the school is to receive funds from the priority school building programme.
BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘It is ludicrous that funds intended to go to the schools most “in need of urgent repair” are instead being spent on a brand new school that a judicial review established was not even needed in the first place – never mind about the fact that the impression originally given was that the local diocese was covering all these costs, in order to secure the establishment of the school in the first place. This whole project has been a complete waste of state funds.’
RISC Coordinator Jeremy Rodell commented, ‘After all the controversy about the opening of St Richard Reynolds Catholic High School, it appears that the Diocese has now found a way to get the taxpayer to pick up the refurbishment costs it seemed that it originally agreed it would pay for. This comes shortly after the school’s cynical proposal to convert to Academy status, so the taxpayer will pick up even the small share of ongoing costs for which they are responsible, while keeping the exclusive admissions policy. It looks like game, set and match to the school and the Diocese.
‘Yes, local Catholics are taxpayers too. But being a taxpayer does not give anyone the right to their own school, from which other local children are now barred by the admissions policy, and then to expect us all to bear the costs.’
For further information or comment please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read a summary of the background to the establishment of St Richard Reynolds Catholic High School: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Richard_Reynolds_Catholic_College
The Fair Admissions Campaign wants all state-funded schools in England and Wales to be open equally to all children, without regard to religion or belief. The Campaign is supported by a wide coalition of individuals and national and local organisations. We hold diverse views on whether or not the state should fund faith schools. But we all believe that faith-based discrimination in access to schools that are funded by the taxpayer is wrong in principle and a cause of religious, ethnic, and socio-economic segregation, all of which are harmful to community cohesion. It is time it stopped.
Supporters of the campaign include the Accord Coalition, the British Humanist Association, Professor Ted Cantle and the iCoCo Foundation, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, the Campaign for State Education, the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education, the Christian think tank Ekklesia, the Hindu Academy, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrat Education Association, Liberal Youth, the Local Schools Network, Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign, the Runnymede Trust, the Socialist Educational Association, and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.