MARIANO Rajoy’s government is planning to end the use of the Catalan language in the state’s schools, using the unprecedented direct rule it imposed following the October independence referendum.

Spanish Education Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo, who is also a spokesperson for the Madrid government, said yesterday: “Of course, we’ll do it,” while denying that the idea was simply being floated.

He said Madrid would guarantee “the right of parents to choose the schooling language for their children”.

One option under consideration was giving families the option of choosing Spanish as a working language on pre-enrolment forms for the next school year.

Marcial Martin, Spain’s Education Secretary, said a final decision would be made within weeks.

Catalan has been the working language in the state’s schools since self-government was restored in the 1980s and pupils complete their education with a good command of it and Spanish.

One member of Catalonia’s central public schools board yesterday described the proposal as “illegal.”

Artur Ramirez told the RAC1 radio station that Catalonia’s education law does not allow changes in the current system and said Madrid’s plan “breaks an existing consensus within the educational community”.

He said: “What do they want – to divide children between Spanish and Catalan? Dividing children for language reasons isn’t an educational measure, it is promoting differences, it is sectarian and does not help integration or cohesion.”

Deposed Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, said Madrid was “trying to divide Catalan students for language reasons”, and former Catalan education minister, Meritxell Ruiz, claimed the law did not allow changes to the pre-enrolment system.

The unionist Socialist Party also rejected Madrid’s move.

Meritxell Batet, an MP in the Spanish Congress said: “The Catalan Socialists have never been in favour of segregating children for language reasons.”

Meanwhile, Elsa Artadi, who was thought likely favourite to fill the presidential void in the Catalan Parliament – with Puigdemont in his Brussels exile – has said she is “not a substitute” for him and was sure his case would go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

Artadi’s comments came in an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN) and with parliament still without a president, two months after the election.

A ruling on the legality of Puigdemont’s presidential bid – which is opposed by Madrid – has still to come from the Constitutional Court (TC).

Artadi is a close ally of Puigdemont, as well as campaign director for his Together for Catalonia (JxCat) party, and maintained that it was still possible to swear in her ally remotely.

She said: “We believe that the current regulations allow us to do this already, but the parliament president wanted more guarantees, so we’ve been working on providing these guarantees through this amendment to the law.

“The job of the parliament is to make and to amend laws, so we can’t foresee the Constitutional Court forbidding us from amending a law, because that would be very similar to closing the parliament.”

Artadi added that the ECHR would be more balanced than the Spanish courts: “Our legal team has been working on this for weeks and obviously we have to go through Strasbourg because we believe that the European judiciary is going to be way more just than the Spanish judiciary, so for sure we will be there.”

And she dismissed speculation about her becoming president: “This is a media bubble that does not come from us.

“Obviously, it doesn’t come from me. I’m no substitute for president Puigdemont,” she added.