The Catholic Church and local government have both welcomed a High Court ruling that a decision to allow new Catholic schools in Richmond, west London was lawful.
A statement from the Diocese of Westminster reads: “The Diocese of Westminster welcomes the High Court of Justice’s ruling that Richmond Council’s decision to lease the Clifden Site to the Diocese for a Voluntary Aided Catholic Primary and Secondary School is lawful.
This is a victory not just for Richmond Council and the Diocese of Westminster, but more importantly, for all those seeking to send their children to a church school. The Diocese of Westminster would like to thank Richmond Council for its support over the last few months and we look forward to working with them as we finalise plans for the school.
Parents in Richmond have been consistently asking for a Catholic school for their children and it is good news that this need will now be addressed. The Diocese is pleased that it can continue arrangements to provide this education when the new schools open in September 2013.”
In May Richmond Council’s Cabinet agreed to a proposal by the RC Dioceses of Westminster and Southwark that the Council-owned Clifden Site should be leased as the site for a new Catholic voluntary-aided secondary school and a Catholic primary school. This decision followed a lengthy period of consultations, which went well beyond statutory requirements. In the final consultation 67 per cent of parents and residents who responded agreed that the site should be used to establish a new, five-form entry Catholic Secondary School with 57 percent in favour of the primary school proposal.
Since this decision was made, the British Humanist Association (BHA), which is opposed to faith schools, with support from Mr Jeremy Rodell, of the Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (RISC), took legal action to have the democratic decision overturned, taking their case to the High Court of Justice.
In a one and a half day hearing at the Court, the Judge reviewed all the evidence submitted by both parties and concluded that Richmond Council did act within the law when it considered and approved the Diocese of Westminster’s proposals for the schools.
Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said: “I am delighted with today’s outcome which supports the clear, democratic decision that was taken locally in pursuit of the previously longstanding policy of both parties on the Council. It will come as an enormous relief to the hundreds of families whose hopes for their children’s education has been threatened by this hostile legal maneuvering.
“This Council set out a full programme of genuinely inclusive educational improvement in its Schools White Paper in 2010. Working in partnership with our schools and Colleges, we have acted, and will continue to act, to create further capacity and to sustain and raise quality, and choice across our secondary system. This programme includes working with schools on standards, facilitating sixth forms and providing new secondary and primary schools and places. It also includes honouring the Council’s longstanding promise to seek to enable a Catholic secondary in the borough and so give local Catholic families what almost every other Borough in London already does.
“Over the past year, the British Humanist Association has elbowed its way into Richmond upon Thames with their clear national agenda of hostility to faith schools – their action has been uncaring and unsympathetic to the many people within the Richmond Catholic community who have worked hard to bring their dream of a dedicated secondary school to fruition. It has also totally ignored the parallel action being taken by this Council to provide more places for all. Hundreds of local families have been left uncertain about the future of the school and thousands of pounds of Council Tax payers money has been spent on lawyers. I trust that the BHA will now accept the verdict that they themselves sought and let Richmond get on with building an even better education system for all. A period of silence from certain all too well ventilated local voices would also be welcome.
“I am glad that this uncertainty has come to an end and we look forward to moving forward, working with the Diocese of Westminster to develop plans for the schools.”
Source: CCN/London Borough of Richmond