Over 500 residents have signed a petition urging the expansion of Catholic primary school places in Horwich, Bolton.
Due to increased frustration at the lack of places available for Catholic children at St Mary’s primary school, the petition was organized by the parish of St Mary’s, Horwich, which is the only Catholic school in the area.
Fr Barry O’Sullivan, parish priest at St Mary’s, told thisislancashire.co.uk: “We are a thriving parish with a growing number of young families attending our church. Yet every year more and more families cannot get a place for their children at their local Catholic primary school as capacity has not kept up with demand".
“The shortage of places means some parishioners are now sending their children to schools in Chorley or Wigan council areas to secure a Catholic education."
Janet McKinlay, head teacher at St Mary’s, said: “Over the last four years, 90 Catholic children have been unable to gain a place at St Mary’s as infant class sizes are limited to 30 to comply with legislation.
“Given the number of christenings has averaged over 50 in the last five years and given the likely increase in population resulting from the two new housing developments in Horwich, approved by Bolton council, the situation will only get worse."
The Diocese of Salford has already said it will support Bolton council in any expansion and that St Mary’s is still its priority in Bolton.
In 2014 the governors of St Mary’s made representations when a planning application for housing was submitted for a site next to the school.
Notwithstanding requests that part of the site was used to expand St Mary’s, planning consent was granted to convert the whole site – including a playing field – to housing.