Hampton’s newest elementary school has opened for the first time – after parents raised concerns about the school’s selection criteria.
St John Henry Newman Catholic Primary School has so far taken in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils.
When Aqua Drive School is fully open in the next six years, it will offer places for 630 students, with 90 in each class.
Principal Mark Cooper explained the school’s admissions policy to the Peterborough Telegraph“We are a Catholic school but we do not require any percentage of our staff to be Catholic.
“You don’t have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school. It is a school for all denominations, and for those who have none”.
Prior to the opening, some residents had expressed concern about the status of St John Henry Newman as a denominational school and feared that children from non-Roman Catholic backgrounds would not be offered a place.
Previously, it was said that the school’s selection criteria would choose 80% of its students on the basis of faith and 20% on location, if oversubscribed, although its governing body reviews the selection process every year.
Currently, the number of school places allocated to children from Catholic families is around 50%, a figure similar to the national average for Catholic school attendance.
The decision to approve the primary school initially angered residents of Hampton Water who campaigned against it and even started their own petition.
Many of them said they felt disappointed buying their new home, only to find out later that their children might not be able to attend the local school because of their faith.
Mr Cooper, who is the former manager of Sacred Heart in Bretton, added: ‘We have protected places for the local community.
“Catholic schools at the service of the community”
“We want to be a local community school, absolutely we do.”
The school, which is run by the Diocese of East Anglia, brings the total number of primary schools in the Hampton area to five.
The school classrooms were named after inspirational personalities such as David Attenborough, John Lennon, Neil Armstrong.
And the classroom doors feature colorful stained glass at each door.
Mr Cooper added: ‘Because of the admissions policies in place for Catholic schools, it may have been thought ‘you can’t get in’ but that’s not the way it is at all.
“All Catholic schools are there to serve the community and that is what we are going to do”.
It was 90% funded by the government, with the council having to pay between £1.1m and £1.5m.
The school, which has electric vehicle charging stations on site, also has rooms dedicated to Design and Technology and Art, an on-site kitchen and a large playground.
Parents and preschoolers were also invited to tasting sessions at Busy Bunnies Nursery, which also opened this week.
New Catholic school in Peterborough unanimously approved