By Citra Sidhu ACCUSATIONS of antiecumenism on the part of the Archdiocese of Birmingham following proposals to change a joint Catholic/Anglican school back into a Catholic school are completely unfounded, the Birmingham Archdiocesan Schools Commission said this week.
Contrary to recent reports, St Augustine of Canterbury Secondary School was never intended as an ecumenical initiative.
The school was set up in the 1980s following a statutory decision by Oxford City Council which responded to the decline in the numbers at the then Catholic secondary St Edmund Campion and the Anglican school of Cowley St John.
"It was a marriage of convenience based on economics," said Fr Stock, who is executive secretary of the commission. "At the time neither Church was particularly happy about it. I am very worried that people are trying to turn this issue into an ecumenical one."
The plans to re-establish a Catholic secondary school follow a decision by Oxford City Council to revert from a three-tier system (primary, middle, secondary) in the city to a two-tier system (primary, secondary).
It is believed that the decline in numbers at St Edmund's had been partly due to the threetier system, Which deterred Catholic children living outside the city from travelling to the school.
With the two-tier system, the archdiocese is confident that it will be able to attract Catholic children living outside the city.
"The head teachers in all the Catholic first and middle schools in the city have urged us to go ahead with the plans and there has been a lot of support from Catholic parents," said Fr Stock."Our primary duty is and must be to meet Catholic needs in Catholic education and we believe that we can sustain a seven-form entry Catholic school."
But Elisabeth Gilpin, the school's Anglican head teacher rejects this claim.
She said: "I am not sure that a purely Roman Catholic school will attract sufficient numbers of Catholic children.
"St Augustine's is a flourishing, oversubscribed school.
"We offer Catholic children the same benefits they would get from most Roman Catholic schools and so I just don't see what additional advantages could be gained from this proposal.
"I know that the teachers, governors and many of the parents are unhappy about it. It would be such a shame to break up something that is working so well."