First new Government-funded Catholic school in over ten years to get green light to open

17 January, 2020

Peterborough City Council has indicated it will approve a proposal for a new Roman Catholic school that will be legally permitted to select up to 100% of its pupils on grounds of faith when it opens in 2022. The school will be the first voluntary aided (VA) school to be approved to open under a new central Government funding scheme, and as such the first new school the Government has funded that can accept 100% of pupils on the basis of faith since 2010. Humanists UK has expressed dismay at the news.

If the Council grants its approval, Hampton Waters Roman Catholic Primary School will be the first of a wave of VA schools to open under a new funding scheme that was implemented by the Government to allow religious groups to open schools whilst selecting more than 50% of pupils on the basis of faith. The scheme was proposed to cater for those who object to a rule that means all other new schools (commonly known as free schools) with religious character are subject to a 50% limit on such selection. Only the Catholic Education Service really objected to this limit, erroneously claiming that any cap on religiously selective admissions ‘contravenes canon law’.

Humanists UK has long campaigned for state-funded schools to be open to all regardless of background and successfully led the campaign to keep the 50% cap on religious selection in new academies and free schools after the Government proposed to scrap it. It strongly opposes the proposal, which will mean that non-Catholic families can be put to the back of the queue for a local school place.

Humanists UK Education Campaign Manager Ruth Wareham commented: ‘We are hugely disappointed to learn that Peterborough Council seem poised to wave through this bid, in spite of strong local opposition. Time and time again, religious selection has been shown to divide communities, not only by faith, but by ethnicity and family income.

‘We strongly urge Peterborough Council to reconsider this decision and ensure that any new school opening in the area is fully inclusive and suitable for all children regardless of background.’


For more information, contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham at or phone 020 7324 3000.

About the proposed new school

The new school will be legally permitted to select 100% of places on the basis of faith. Seemingly contradicting the Catholic Education Service’s position, the Diocese of East Anglia – which is behind the Peterborough bid – has said that in the first instance, 20% of places at the new school will be reserved for the children of local residents meaning there will be an 80% limit on religious selection.

Before the bid can be fully approved, there will be a five-day period during which the decision can be ‘called-in’ by local councillors. Humanists UK is working with a number of councillors who intend to object to the decision and believe the consultation and decision-making processes relating to the bid were flawed. Despite the claim, reportedly made by the Council, that the public consultation ‘showed overwhelming support for the school’, only 110 of those who responded to the Diocese of East Anglia’s consultation were Hampton residents and no record appears to have been made of what proportion are parents of school-age children. The Council consultation received 1,911 responses, but, again, only a very small proportion came from Hampton residents and the figures fail to show how many are parents. In addition, a number of residents living in Hampton Water have objected to the plan and even launched their own petition against it ‘discriminating’ on the basis of faith.

Read our most recent article on how the Hampton Water bid apparently contradicts canon law.

Read more about the new funding scheme for religiously-selective state schools.

Find out more about our faith schools campaign work.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.