BY MARK GREAVES
NICK CLEGG, the Deputy Prime Minister, is reportedly seeking to send his three sons to a top Catholic state school despite his party’s pre-election pledge to dismantle the faith school system.
Mr Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, was accused of “rank hypocrisy” after taking a tour of the London Oratory school in Chelsea, south-west London.
He and his wife, Miriam González Durántez, who is Catholic, live closer to several other schools, including a Catholic school, in Putney, but may try to enrol their children at the London Oratory instead. He defended he and his wife’s interest last week, saying that even though he was atheist, his children were being raised as Catholics.
Mr Clegg said: “”My kids are more precious to me than anything else in the world and the fact [is] that my wife is Catholic, I married in the Catholic Church and my children have been brought up by Catholics and go to a Catholic state primary school.
“It therefore shouldn’t be entirely surprising that maybe, just maybe, my wife might consider, we might consider as parents sending our children on to a state-funded Catholic secondary school.” Mr Clegg’s interest in the London Oratory follows a Lib Dem manifesto last year that promised to stop Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools from selecting pupils on the grounds of faith.
The policy was strongly criticised by Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, who said at the time that Catholics should think seriously before voting Lib Dem.
The manifesto stated: “We will ensure that all faith schools develop an inclusive admissions policy and end unfair discrimination on grounds of faith.” Bishop McMahon, chairman of the bishops’ conference Department for Education, said the policy undermined an agreement between Church and state enshrined in the 1944 Education Act.
The Lib Dems, he said, were “looking at changing the fundamentals of education policy, which is going to be very damaging for the Catholic Church”.
The London Oratory, where Tony Blair sent his children, is one of the top-rated comprehensive schools in the country. Earlier this year it amended its admissions policy so that, from September next year, parents of prospective pupils can be asked about their involvement in parish life. It is expected to convert to academy status later this year. Keith Porteous Wood, of the National Secular Society, accused Mr Clegg of hypocrisy.
He said: “As his wife Miriam is a Catholic it is understandable they would want a Catholic school. But he should not haul his children across London to go to the best. It reeks of elitism and goes against just about everything he has said about faith schools.”