Thursday, March 13, 2008

Government smears Church schools


From CFNews: Ministers faced demands last night to retract 'outrageously inaccurate' claims that faith schools were demanding money for places. A leading head teacher said the accusations were 'a disgrace' and a 'smokescreen'. Religious leaders said they lacked foundation and a council criticised for breaching admissions rules condemned the handling of the allegations. It followed claims by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) suggesting that some schools in three areas expected financial contributions. Parents were asked to set up termly standing orders for hundreds of pounds - a move branded a 'scandal'. It emerged that just four schools may have been charging, fuelling claims that the disclosure was a distraction from figures showing that one in five parents failed to get children into their first choice secondary school.

The DCSF investigated the admissions policies of 570 schools in Barnet, north-west London, Manchester and Northamptonshire. Of these, 119 were suspected of flouting the code, which bans covert selection. Mike Griffiths, the head of Northampton School for Boys, said: '[Ministers] put in place a new code and promised parents that it would increase their chances of getting their first choice of school. Parents are angry - rightly so. The reaction of ministers has been to blame schools and to imply that if only we had all followed their code, the world would be a happier place. This is a disgrace. Parents should not have their confidence in the system undermined by inaccurate accusations.' The schools which are said to have been charging are all believed to be Jewish primaries in Barnet. The Telegraph understands that one levied a £50 admission fee while three others sought voluntary contributions towards security and Jewish studies, a subject not funded by the taxpayer.

Mike Freer, the leader of Tory Barnet council, said: 'This is a cheap tactic by a failing Government. We had a letter on Monday giving us 10 days to report back about some schools they had concerns about. But the ink was barely dry when [Mr Balls] was all over the TV saying it was a scandal - rather than waiting to find out the facts.' The Anglican Bishop of Dover, the Rt Rev Stephen Venner, said he only knew of one school that had asked for money in the past. But the cash was needed for a fund to fight its closure. Ed Balls, the Children's Secretary, admitted the findings were based on 'unverified desk research'. He insisted that the names of the offending schools would not be released for at least two weeks. 'The department has written to the three local authorities and to the governing bodies of all voluntary aided and foundation schools who appear not to have complied with the law, asking them to verify what we have found. Once verified, we will present the detailed information.'

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen