Catholic Union launches campaign to persuade Education Secretary to lift the 50% cap on new Catholic free schools

The Catholic Union has launched a major new campaign to lift the 50 percent cap on faith-based admissions to new free schools.

People are being asked to sign an open letter to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan MP, to “scrap the cap”.

The letter is available for people to sign on the Catholic Union’s website and will be delivered to the Department for Education after the summer holidays.

The 50 percent cap on faith-based admissions applies to oversubscribed free schools with a religious character in England. Introduced by the Coalition Government in 2010, the cap has made it impossible for new Catholic free schools to open as the policy is incompatible with Church law.

The Catholic Union, along with the Catholic Education Service and others, has been calling for the policy to be reversed since it was first introduced. The 2017 Conservative manifesto committed to lifting the cap, but this was never achieved.

As well as making Catholic education more widely available, the letter to the Education Secretary says that lifting the cap “would help boost morale” in a sector that has struggled with pay and conditions and the pressure of inspections.

Rt Hon Sir Edward Leigh MP, President of the Catholic Union, comments: “The 50 percent cap is a source of huge frustration to the Catholic community in this country. There has never been any justification for the policy or any evidence to support keeping it in place. I have raised this matter with successive Ministers in the Department for Education. We have come close to getting the cap lifted in the past and with the help of Catholic teachers we can make the Government see sense. Lifting the cap would be a huge vote of confidence in Catholic schools in this country and I know would be welcome by people from other faiths.”

Professor John Lydon, Chairman of the Catholic Union’s Education Committee, adds: “This letter is a very important initiative from the Catholic Union. There is a bright future for Catholic schools in this country, but we need to be honest about the challenges we face. One of those challenges is the cap on faith-based admissions. It has without doubt restricted access to Catholic education in England and prevented the Church from realising the benefits of the academisation programme currently underway. The letter to the Secretary of State is a timely intervention and I encourage everyone involved in Catholic education in this country to add their name in support.”

Sign the letter


The Catholic Union was founded in 1870. It is a membership organisation dedicated to the defence of Catholic values in Parliament and public life, and the promotion of the common good.