A number of Catholic Bishops in England have declared their support for a campaign launched by the Catholic Union (CU), to lift the 50 per cent cap on faith-based admissions to new free schools.

The limit, introduced by the 2010 coalition government applies to oversubscribed free schools with a religious character in England.

The CU launched the “scrap the cap” campaign earlier this year, saying the policy has made it impossible for Catholic Bishops to sanction new Catholic free schools as it would lead to pupils being turned away on the basis of their Catholic faith.

According to the Catholic Education Service, the right of a Catholic school to prioritise Catholic children over those of other faiths is protected.

Catholic schools and academies are run by the Church but receive government support. This team-up has been around since 1944 and provides Catholic families with free access to a distinctive Catholic education.

A letter to the Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan MP calling for the policy to be reverse has already received close to 600 signatures.

Bishop Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds, and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service has backed the campaign alongside Archbishop Bernard Longley; Archbishop of Birmingham, Bishop Peter Collins; Bishop of East Anglia, and Bishop Paul Swarbrick; Bishop of Lancaster.

About nine out of every 100 schools in the country are Catholic schools, including academies and colleges. Together, these schools educate just under 850,000 students in England and Wales.

Rt Rev Marcus Stock says lifting the cap would be beneficial for the sector: “The Catholic community has long been a valued partner to successive governments, and since the 19th century has become the second-largest education provider in the country.

“We seek to maintain parental choice and ensure that, particularly where schools are oversubscribed, Catholic parents can provide a Catholic education for their children in a Catholic school. The Catholic Education Service, the Catholic Union, and all those who benefit from the diversity provided by our Catholic school sector, regard it as vital that the admissions cap is lifted.”

The letter is available for people to sign on the Catholic Union’s website, and will be delivered to the Department for Education after the summer holidays.