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Joint school shuts after falling rolls

09 August 2013

A MERSEYSIDE comprehensive run jointly by the Anglican diocese and Roman Catholic archdioceseof Liverpool, Christ the KingSchool, Huyton, shut its doors permanently at the end of the summer term, less than four years after it opened.

Despite a vigorous campaign bya parents' group to keep the school open, falling levels of recruitment forced the local authority, Knowsley Council, and the Department for Education to issue a closure notice shortly after Easter.

The director of education for Liverpool diocese, Jon Richardson, said that the decision was supported by the C of E and RC education authorities, which run six other Merseyside schools jointly. "In September, there would have been fewer than 400 pupils for 900 places at Christ the King," Mr Richardson said.

Christ the King, which served a challenging area, was the first of seven comprehensives developed by Knowsley Council under the previous Government's national Building Schools for the Future programme. When it opened in January 2009, the council declared that the architecturally advanced building would provide "a world-class education".

But these hopes failed to materialise. Attempts to redevelop it - first as a university technology college, and then as an academy supported by Liverpool Hope University - foundered. Then, after the school went into special measures, recruitment declined further.

"It was a huge disappointment, but our six other joint schools are an excellent example of ecumenical co-operation," Mr Richardson said.

More than 30 Anglican/Roman Catholic maintained schools have been established since the late 1970s. Christ the King is the third to close. Christ's School, Richmond-upon-Thames, formed from a merger of two denominational secondary schools, closed, but is now a thriving C of E school.

St Augustine's, Oxford, which also served a disadvantaged area, was the centre of a prolonged dispute, when the archdiocese of Birmingham pulled out of the venture, againstthe wishes of many local Roman Catholics.

Differences of emphasis between the two Churches in their approach to education - the C of E largely community-based, the RC more strongly denominational - need to be reconciled if joint schools are to succeed.

In most cases, they work well, the Anglican educationist, Dr Priscilla Chadwick, who has written widely on the subject, says: "In the few cases where there have been problems, these have mostly resulted from social factors."

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