Pupils told to prove their faith to get into schools

St Ninians is East Rens leading Catholic Secondary School
St Ninians is East Rens leading Catholic Secondary School

East Renfrewshire Council has unveiled plans to request copies of baptismal certificates before Catholic school placements will be confirmed.

A public consultation into the move is now under way following a meeting of the education committee last week.

And in the radical proposals suggested, not only will parents have to prove their child’s faith, but for some children who have siblings at a secondary school, there is no longer a guarantee that a younger sibling at primary school will be able to attend the same secondary school.

The council maintain that changes are needed due to an uprecedented demand for places at Roman Catholic schools in the area, which are either approaching, or are already at full capacity.

Council Leader Jim Fletcher said: “East Renfrewshire Council has a reputation as Scotland’s leading local authority for the provision of consistently 
high quality education for children and young people.

“Because of this success there is a high demand for places in our schools and in recent years this has increased significantly – particularly so in our Roman Catholic schools.

“We are very proactive in ensuring that our residents can get into the schools of their choice wherever possible and have already taken a range of steps to increase capacity.

“However, demand for Roman Catholic school places is continuing to grow at a rate that requires us to now take further measures to ensure we can meet demand from our resident population.

“We are a listening council and will consider all views expressed as part of the consultation process.”

ERC Director of Education Mhairi Shaw said: “Over recent years the number of East Renfrewshire families choosing a Roman Catholic education for their children has increased by around one fifth and many of these schools are in fact either at or approaching full capacity.

“We have already taken action to address increased demand at our schools by creating additional accommodation, increasing teacher numbers and classes where necessary and are also in the process of investing £77.6 million over the next three years to provide even more new and extended education facilities.

“However, despite these significant measures, the rate at which demand is now increasing means these actions will still not provide the capacity needed to meet the appetite for Roman Catholic school places in future years.

“We also know that we have space in our very high performing non-denominational schools in the council area and as such we must seek to use all available capacity across our full school estate to achieve a fair and equitable solution and best value for the public purse.

“As more families want a place at a Roman Catholic school for their children it is essential that we either create more capacity for Roman Catholic education or change admissions arrangements for our existing schools.”

She added: “We will be consulting on changes to current admissions arrangements to give priority to Roman Catholic baptised children if they live in the school’s catchment in the event that a Roman Catholic school is oversubscribed.

“In cases of oversubscription children not of the Roman Catholic faith will therefore be offered a place in their local non-denominational catchment school.

“The practice of requesting a baptismal certificate is not new in Scotland and is already a practice adopted by a number of other local authorities.

“It is important to stress that this policy will only be used in the event that the school is oversubscribed. However our analysis shows that we have and will continue to have sufficient places for East Renfrewshire Roman Catholic families.

“Families of other faiths or no faith will still be able to apply for a place at a Roman Catholic school if they wish.

“It is important to stress that these proposed arrangements will see no changes to existing school catchment areas or re-zoning anywhere in ERC.

“The proposed arrangements would also mean changes for pupils seeking a place at an ERC school if they live outwith the Council area because placing request priority will be given to East Renfrewshire residents in all cases other than siblings.

“In addition, we are also proposing to change the current order of placing request criteria to give greater priority to children already at an associated primary when applying for a S1 place.

“This is as opposed to the current arrangement which prioritises children who already have a sibling at the secondary school being applied for.”