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Certificate of Catholic Practice

Fri 01 Sep 2017

Last academic year the Catholic Education Service introduced a Certificate of Catholic Practice with the aim of regularising admissions procedures of Catholic schools in England and Wales.

Under the Certificate the parish priest certified on a pupil by pupil basis whether or not the pupil was a practicing Catholic therefore increasing or decreasing chances of admission into a Catholic School. Challenges to the Certificate were brought by both Surrey and Richmond County Councils, conclusions drawn, judicial review hearings requested with the resulting direction from the Office of Schools Adjudicator that the parties should explore whether there could be modifications to the Certificate which might mean that the Councils’ objections were met. The Catholic Education Service (supported by Winckworth Sherwood), the Office of Schools Adjudicator and the Department of Education have worked together to addresses the concerns raised and have produced a pleasing outcome.

One of the main objections to the Certificate was that there was no clear definition in the Certificate of the form and frequency of religious practice which is required for a priest to produce the Certificate. The CES has produced a definition which OSA has indicated is likely to comply with the School Admissions Code. The definition states that a Certificate will be issued where mass attendance has been continuous for five years. Where practice has not been continuous then the priest may exercise his judgment and, if he is satisfied, that the parent or child meets the Church’s definition of practice then he may provide a Certificate. This definition succeeds in providing consistency and clarity (with enough flexibility to take into account less conventional circumstances) which is a welcome addition to the sometimes contentious area of defining what a practicing Catholic is in the context of school admissions and fulfils the CES’s original aim of regularising admissions procedures for Catholic schools.

Dioceses are advised to ensure that both the template Certificate of Catholic Practice and the Guidance for Clergy are available on the diocesan website. Schools should not save these to their own websites, to avoid giving the impression that these documents are part of the schools’ formal admission documents, but provide a link to the Diocesan website.

Updated Guidance for Clergy and the final suite of model admission documents are available here.

Admissions Reminder

Schools are reminded that the window for consultation on new admissions arrangements for September 2018 is 1st October 2017 – 31st January 2018. We are happy to assist with drafting and advising on new admissions policies!

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