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Catholic school caught up in row over abolition of 50% cap

Gillian Keegan has been criticised for launching her faith school reforms at “one of the most socially and religiously segregated schools in the country”.

But the headteacher of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Holland Park, London, has hit back at critics, pointing to the ethnic diversity of its student body and the high performance of its disadvantaged pupils.

Speaking at the Cardinal Vaughan school last Wednesday, Keegan announced a change to the rules governing faith-based selection. 

At present, oversubscribed free schools can select half of their pupils on the basis of their faith, and special academies are not allowed to be based on faith.

According to government records, 15.3 per cent of pupils at Cardinal Vaughan are eligible for free school meals, compared with over 33 per cent across the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and 26 per cent across London.

A central criticism of faith schools is that their ability to select based on faith makes them less inclusive. 

Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, said: “By making her announcement at one of the most socially and religiously segregated schools in the country, the education secretary couldn’t have more vividly demonstrated the socially destructive consequences of her flawed policy if she had tried.”

But Paul Stubbings, the school’s head, hit back, saying the school did not “recognise this characterisation of our community as socially segregated”.

He said: “That would come as news to the 73 per cent of pupils who are not white British, to the 41 per cent whose first language is not English, and to the 4.1 per cent of pupils who have education, health and care plans, as opposed to a national average of 2.5 per cent.”

A DfE spokesperson said the school admissions code would continue to require faith school admissions “to be fair, clear and objective so no child should be unfairly disadvantaged”.

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