Preparations are surging ahead for the merger of two Bradford secondaries which will create in the UK’s largest Roman Catholic school.

In September, the all-boys St Bede’s Grammar in Heaton and the all-girls St Joseph’s Catholic College in Manningham will come together, creating a co-ed entry school run over two campuses.

The new head teacher said the change is overwhelmingly supported by parents and there have been three times as many pupils applying to study at the new school than there are spaces available.

Governors at St Joseph’s have just applied for planning permission to expand the school into the neighbouring field to create a 73 by 45 metre football field, two rounders squares and two netball courts which would be ready for when the first mixed classes start.

The proposals have already been approved by the school governors, and are now awaiting a decision by Bradford Council planning officers.

The school will be re-named St Bede’s and St Joseph’s, and from September the St Joseph’s building will be home to years seven to nine with older pupils being taught at the St Bede’s site.

Year sevens will be mixed sex starting in September, with the entire school being mixed by September 2018.

Leeds Catholic Diocese, which runs the two schools, purchased a section of the playing field to improve sporting facilities for the school’s 2,000 pupils.

The merger was proposed because of the decline of Catholics in the area. Only 60 per cent of the current school intake belong to the faith.

Paul Heitzman, the executive head teacher of St Bede’s and St Joseph’s, said: “We’re very proud at the schools to have more than 100 years of tradition and we hope to keep a lot of those traditions.

“A lot of staff and pupils like the idea of having a key stage separate in one building. It is a bit like a middle school, so it won’t be such a big move.

“We have a new uniform – that is ready. This is an important story because once we’re open we will be the biggest Catholic school in the country.

“We have had fantastic support from the parents and we’ve had more than 900 people put us as a first preference when there are only 290 places.

“We’re currently working on little things, like making sure we’ve got enough boys and girls’ toilets. We want the schools to have the best facilities. We weren’t happy with the outdoor play facilities at St Joseph’s so we’ve put in these new plans. It will cost about £200,000 to create these new outdoor facilities.

“These are very exciting times.”

A decision on the outdoor courts is expected by Bradford Council at the end of the month.