Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, speaks of need for Catholic secondary school in Richmond

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Speaking out: Archbishop of Southwark's first public show of support for Catholic secondary school in Richmond Speaking out: Archbishop of Southwark's first public show of support for Catholic secondary school in Richmond

The Archbishop of Southwark today steps into the row over Catholic education in Richmond with his first public show of support for a new faith school.

The Most Rev Peter Smith told the Richmond and Twickenham Times the borough had a “very real need” for a Catholic secondary school and urged parents “not to give up hope”.

His backing will come as a boost to the 1,105 churchgoers who signed a petition calling for Richmond Council to give one of two new schools, needed by 2015, to the Catholic Church.

However, the authority has faced fierce criticism from the South West London Humanists group, which claimed the plans contradicted its own policies on diversity.

The archbishop, who has responsibility for the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark, covering all London boroughs south of the Thames, said: “I fully support the desire and aspirations of parents in Richmond for a Catholic secondary school.

“I understand that this is a matter which has been the subject of plans and wishes over a number of years, and that the local authority is keen to have, and is supportive of, such a project.

“There are two particular obstacles, namely the lack of a suitable site and how the project could be financed.”

He said the Archdiocese of Southwark and Archdiocese of Westminster would “do our best” to overcome the problems, but acknowledged that Government funding cuts could stifle the plans.

He added: “I understand that both the Diocesan Commissions for Southwark and Westminster are continuing to pursue this matter, and obviously I am encouraging them to do so.

“It is quite a task, but I do urge all interested parties not to give up hope. We will do our best and I do appreciate that there is a very real need for such a school in the borough.”

Richmond is currently one of two boroughs in London without a Catholic secondary school.

However, South West London Humanists and the Accord group, which includes a coalition of Muslim, Hindu and Christian organisations, said the new schools should be inclusive and not segregate children based on their religion.

Jeremy Rodell, chairman of the South West London Humanists, said: “This is not anti-Catholic, we are saying the proposal is unfair and discriminative for taxpayers, including the 90 per cent who are not Catholic.

“To have to fund a school which is socially divisive against most people in the area and provides privileges to a small minority, that just seems completely wrong.”

In a letter published in today’s Richmond and Twickenham Times, Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, writes of the need for a Catholic secondary school but says the church must take the lead.

Comments (8)

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12:53pm Fri 18 Mar 11

James Heather says...

OK so the Catholic Church supports a bid for a new catholic secondary school. This is hardly surprising. The fact the bishop fails to acknowledge that the school will discriminate against potential employees on the basis of their faith and sexuality is also not surprising. He doesn’t take the opportunity to highlight the admissions policy of the school will discriminate on faith or to clarify that it will draw upon potential students from the religious boundaries of the diocese of Southwark rather than simply the geographical (council tax) boundaries of the borough.

We know that there is support for this school. But the fact is that the school will discriminate. As such the Arch Bishop of Southwark and the people who have signed the petition are apparently happy with the implications of this. They are supporting a school that will refuse a person a job or dismiss them on the basis of their sexuality. They are supporting an employer which will turn away a local teacher looking for work in favour of a teacher from outside the borough on the basis of what he believes (or doesn’t believe). The fact that even in 2011 there are people who are willing to discriminate does not mean that the council should use tax payers money to support this.

I am pleased to see Lord True acknowledges the majority of protesters are not anti-catholic. It is frustrating to see a fight for equality be dismissed by some, simply because in this instance religion is involved. The campaign is opposed to discrimination not religion. This is something that should unite people.

While allowing the freedom of expression of belief the council should not be willing to directly fund an organization that will employ such policies. If the council wants to see a catholic school in the borough, the very least it should do is require that it will not fire an employee if it turns out they are gay. It should require people in the borough are given an equal opportunity of employment regardless of faith. It should require that all applicants from within the borough are provided the opportunity of a place at the school before drawing on children from faith families outside the borough but within the diocese. These are minimum requirements that should be imposed before the council even considers spending tax money on any organization, educational or otherwise.

Can a council employee at York House in a management position refuse a job to someone on the basis of their sexuality if the council employee happens to be Catholic? Of course not and I am sure Lord True and his cabinet would have it no other way. Agreeing to a new state funded Catholic Secondary School without the aforementioned requirements is no different than setting up a special department at the council offices with the freedom to operate outside of equality legislation.
OK so the Catholic Church supports a bid for a new catholic secondary school. This is hardly surprising. The fact the bishop fails to acknowledge that the school will discriminate against potential employees on the basis of their faith and sexuality is also not surprising. He doesn’t take the opportunity to highlight the admissions policy of the school will discriminate on faith or to clarify that it will draw upon potential students from the religious boundaries of the diocese of Southwark rather than simply the geographical (council tax) boundaries of the borough. We know that there is support for this school. But the fact is that the school will discriminate. As such the Arch Bishop of Southwark and the people who have signed the petition are apparently happy with the implications of this. They are supporting a school that will refuse a person a job or dismiss them on the basis of their sexuality. They are supporting an employer which will turn away a local teacher looking for work in favour of a teacher from outside the borough on the basis of what he believes (or doesn’t believe). The fact that even in 2011 there are people who are willing to discriminate does not mean that the council should use tax payers money to support this. I am pleased to see Lord True acknowledges the majority of protesters are not anti-catholic. It is frustrating to see a fight for equality be dismissed by some, simply because in this instance religion is involved. The campaign is opposed to discrimination not religion. This is something that should unite people. While allowing the freedom of expression of belief the council should not be willing to directly fund an organization that will employ such policies. If the council wants to see a catholic school in the borough, the very least it should do is require that it will not fire an employee if it turns out they are gay. It should require people in the borough are given an equal opportunity of employment regardless of faith. It should require that all applicants from within the borough are provided the opportunity of a place at the school before drawing on children from faith families outside the borough but within the diocese. These are minimum requirements that should be imposed before the council even considers spending tax money on any organization, educational or otherwise. Can a council employee at York House in a management position refuse a job to someone on the basis of their sexuality if the council employee happens to be Catholic? Of course not and I am sure Lord True and his cabinet would have it no other way. Agreeing to a new state funded Catholic Secondary School without the aforementioned requirements is no different than setting up a special department at the council offices with the freedom to operate outside of equality legislation. James Heather
  • Score: 0

2:05pm Fri 18 Mar 11

James Heather says...

I feel it is rather important to remind people just who the Arch bishop of Southwark, the most Revd. Peter Smith actually is and where he stands on equality…

Just last week he was in the news (the Guardian) in a article stating the Catholic church is on a collision course with the government after declaring it will oppose in the "strongest terms" changes to the Equality Act that will allow gay couples to register civil partnerships in places of worship.

http://www.guardian.
co.uk/world/2011/feb
/22/catholic-challen
ge-gay-marriage-chur
ch?INTCMP=SRCH

More worringly he is also the same Peter Smith who as Archbishop of Cardiff sparked outrage, saying gay teachers should be banned from Catholic schools in Wales. He said he believes homosexuals in relationships should be barred from classrooms because they set a bad example to pupils and staff.

http://www.walesonli
ne.co.uk/news/wales-
news/tm_objectid=153
86326&method=full&si
teid=50082&headline=
outrage-at-archbisho
p-s-views-on-gay-tea
chers-name_page.html
I feel it is rather important to remind people just who the Arch bishop of Southwark, the most Revd. Peter Smith actually is and where he stands on equality… Just last week he was in the news (the Guardian) in a article stating the Catholic church is on a collision course with the government after declaring it will oppose in the "strongest terms" changes to the Equality Act that will allow gay couples to register civil partnerships in places of worship. http://www.guardian. co.uk/world/2011/feb /22/catholic-challen ge-gay-marriage-chur ch?INTCMP=SRCH More worringly he is also the same Peter Smith who as Archbishop of Cardiff sparked outrage, saying gay teachers should be banned from Catholic schools in Wales. He said he believes homosexuals in relationships should be barred from classrooms because they set a bad example to pupils and staff. http://www.walesonli ne.co.uk/news/wales- news/tm_objectid=153 86326&method=full&si teid=50082&headline= outrage-at-archbisho p-s-views-on-gay-tea chers-name_page.html James Heather
  • Score: 0

4:18pm Fri 18 Mar 11

RiverLover says...

Do we know how many pupils the school envisages to have?
Do we know how many pupils the school envisages to have? RiverLover
  • Score: 0

5:14pm Fri 18 Mar 11

James Heather says...

This has not been decided yet. The council has identified a future shortfall in secondary school places. They intend to solve this by creating 2 new schools. They have not provided specific details of location or numbers
This has not been decided yet. The council has identified a future shortfall in secondary school places. They intend to solve this by creating 2 new schools. They have not provided specific details of location or numbers James Heather
  • Score: 0

6:17pm Fri 18 Mar 11

RiverLover says...

Should we not wait and see what the proposal is before criticising it?
Should we not wait and see what the proposal is before criticising it? RiverLover
  • Score: 0

11:23am Sat 19 Mar 11

Sparkythecat says...

If we have to have faith schools - and my feeling is that religion should be raught only in the place of worship - what's wrong with just having a CHRISTIAN school rather than making it even more divisive by wanting a school for a particular sect. After all we have Jewish, Muslim, Hindu schools and not particular sects of these religions. I was under the impression that C of E, catholic, baptist, methodist, etc, etc, were all CHRISTIAN churches.
If we have to have faith schools - and my feeling is that religion should be raught only in the place of worship - what's wrong with just having a CHRISTIAN school rather than making it even more divisive by wanting a school for a particular sect. After all we have Jewish, Muslim, Hindu schools and not particular sects of these religions. I was under the impression that C of E, catholic, baptist, methodist, etc, etc, were all CHRISTIAN churches. Sparkythecat
  • Score: 0

12:37pm Sat 19 Mar 11

JeremyRodell says...

But what's wrong with having sufficient places at outstanding, local, inclusive schools for all the children in the Borough who are seeking state-funded education?

Taking Sparkythecat's point: there is already a Christian secondary school (Christ's in Richmond), which has recently improved from being a failing to an outstanding school and where the admissions policy favours children of Christian parents, including Catholics.
But what's wrong with having sufficient places at outstanding, local, inclusive schools for all the children in the Borough who are seeking state-funded education? Taking Sparkythecat's point: there is already a Christian secondary school (Christ's in Richmond), which has recently improved from being a failing to an outstanding school and where the admissions policy favours children of Christian parents, including Catholics. JeremyRodell
  • Score: 0

10:25am Sun 20 Mar 11

tim_lennon says...

The issue is pretty fundamental, and pretty basic: many people have an in principle objection to the state-funding of religious schools of any type: Christian, Muslim or whatever. The fact that other boroughs already have a Catholic secondary, or that we have a CofE school makes no difference: I'd rather they also ceased to have a religious bias, too.
The issue is pretty fundamental, and pretty basic: many people have an in principle objection to the state-funding of religious schools of any type: Christian, Muslim or whatever. The fact that other boroughs already have a Catholic secondary, or that we have a CofE school makes no difference: I'd rather they also ceased to have a religious bias, too. tim_lennon
  • Score: 0

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