Catholic schools can heal Britain’s divisions

SIR – You are right to welcome the Government lifting the admissions cap on Catholic schools and correct to attribute that wise policy to the PM’s excellent co-chief of staff Nick Timothy (Leading article, September 16). However, your caution in welcoming the potential of multi-religious trusts needs gently but firmly to be challenged if we are not to be – or be seen to be – a community with reservations about our responsibilities to the common good.

In the last year I have run workshops with young Muslim students from monochrome communities in Yorkshire and Lancashire. I have arranged for poor white working-class kids from equally monochrome neighbourhoods to have their first formal meal out in the Lord Mayor’s state rooms in Brexit-supporting Portsmouth. What these young people had in common was a simmering anger at being shut out from what they perceived to be the mainstream. They shared a lack of hope that government or businesses of any kind provided routes of participation that were open to them or those like them.

While some bishops may prefer not to engage in multi-religious trusts because of their responsibility to pass on the faith, others actually have a wider social duty – a duty of mercy – that arises from their particular geographies, especially of economic, religious or racial exclusion now so apparent in our country. At the least, a diocese might act as a catalyst for creativity on the part of the Church.

Moreover, this would be a perfect time for the Catholic Education Service and dioceses to re-examine, with religious orders, the opportunity to establish branches of the American Cristo Rey schools, which have done so much to reduce truancy in inner cities. Alternatively, they could offer help with back office administration, child protection, finance and governance that make so many small private Muslim and Jewish schools so institutionally vulnerable.

Were a great Catholic private school to join such an effort, the signals it would send to a nation not at ease with itself would be striking.

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