the church is to mount a challenge in the High Court against a ruling by the Government’s schools adjudicator on admission policy to oversubscribed Catholic schools.

The Catholic Education Service (CES) had brought in a new system to ensure that the 2,300 Catholic schools in England and Wales follow the same admissions policy. The Certificate of Catholic Practice (CCP) was intended to harmonise a system that varied between dioceses.

That system had been open to abuse, with previously uncommitted parents starting to attend Mass and help out at their church a few months before applying for their child to be accepted at a school. A spokeswoman for CES said: “This academic year, in order to improve the consistency across the country, there has been a move from diocesan priests’ references to a national system of a certificate of Catholic practice. This ensures that the measures used to determine Catholic practice are the same across diocesan boundaries”. But the Office of the Schools Adjudicator said the basis on which priests make such a decision was not transparent. “There is no easy way for any parent to know in advance that they will be able to fulfil the oversubscription criteria under which such priority is afforded,” its ruling said.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster said: “The legality of this ruling is now being challenged in the High Court.”

The adjudicator’s ruling followed a complaint from a parent who had tried to secure a place for their child at St Richard Reynolds Catholic College in Twickenham, London, that “the arrangements do not define what form or frequency of religious practice is required for a priest to do this”.

A CES spokeswoman said that “within the Catholic community it is accepted that priests are the correct authority to identify practising Catholics”.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection