Molly Conrad, Parliamentary Officer for the Catholic Education Service, writes:
According to Pope Francis the defining feature of a Catholic school should be ‘an education in the fullness of humanity’. Catholic schools today truly embody Pope Francis’ vision for Catholic education – not only are they some of the highest achieving in the country, but they are considerably more ethnically diverse and accept significantly more pupils from the poorest households, compared to the national average. Moreover, the Church is the second largest provider of education in the country with 2,200 schools.
It is the ethos of Catholic schools that makes them so unique and successful; it is one that embraces the formation of the whole child, centred on Christ who gives life meaning and purpose – who calls us to ‘have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10). Interestingly, many non-Catholic teachers choose to work in Catholic schools because of the welcoming and accepting environment that our schools foster.
With this success, one would assume that there is little to criticise about Catholic schools in England and Wales. However, nationally, there are organisations that spend their time campaigning for an end to Catholic schools and their ability to maintain a Catholic ethos. As a Catholic community, we need to make our voices heard to show them that this is unacceptable.
It is crucial to recognise that whoever forms the next Government may implement legislation that could directly impact our Catholic schools, teachers and children. Whilst some parties may seem to hold favourable views on schools with a religious character more generally, they may also want to implement policies which could negatively impact the ethos of Catholic schools in particular.
When thinking about casting your vote at this upcoming General Election, it is important to consider the various threats that Catholic education faces. to decide what questions to ask and what decision to make to impact our teachers, staff and children in the most positive way.
This means understanding each political party’s stance on various topics. Perhaps these are some questions to reflect upon when deciding how to cast your vote:
Can Catholic children be prioritised in their school’s admissions criteria? What are the various parties’ views on Religious Education and the RE curriculum, and would those views lead to change in the nature of Catholic RE and its importance? How will teachers be viewed and, if elected, will the party continue to provide quality support for the formation of our teachers? Do the parties recognise and respect the importance of parents as primary educators of their children? Will the various parties support the opening of new Catholic schools?
It is timely that the forthcoming General Election is being held while we are still celebrating the canonisation of St John Henry Newman. His commitment to ensuring that Catholics could receive a well-rounded, quality education is something that is inspiring for our Catholic community today. For 170 years Catholic schools have flourished in this country. They demonstrate the Catholic calling to provide for the common good of society, and the importance of education for the Church community. As stated by the Congregation for Catholic Education, the absence of Catholic schools would be ‘a great loss’. At this election, we must cast votes that demonstrate how important our faith, staff and children are to us.
Catholic Education Service