Friday, 14 January 2011

Catholic Schools: for whom?

Christina Odone, who blogs over at the Daily Telegraph, has an interesting and timely post concerning the  disputes between the Diocese of Westminster and the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School.
The issue in dispute seems to be over the admissions policy of the school:

"The school’s critics are ideologues who see education as a tool for social engineering: teachers should not cater for their brighter charges, but lower their sights to include all students equally; if this means lowering standards, or using simpler texts and dropping more challenging subjects, then so be it – all’s fair in class war. Incredibly, these ideologues are not the beards-and-sandals atheists who stuff the teachers’ unions; they are Catholic educationalists who enjoy top jobs within the Church’s education bureaucracy. Such is their enthusiasm for equality and sameness, they cannot abide the idea of a school intake that is overwhelmingly Catholic; to them, this smacks of exclusion, just as a rosary offends the sacred spirit of multiculturalism.
A school that promotes these divisive practices must be brought to heel. In its first engagement with the enemy, the Diocese of Westminster changed the school’s admissions policy. As a result, the school can no longer give priority to those families active in their parishes."

I don't always agree with  the views expressed by Miss Odone, and not being connected with the school, I have no first hand knowlege that would either support or disclaim what she has said in her article. But if the comments on Miss Odone's article are any indicator, it seems she has articulated the views and feelings of a number of current ' Vaughan' parents: 

"Cristina, very good article that describes the situation exactly as it is. All supporters of this great school must make their feelings known to the Archbishop. He has been very badly advised by the so called Westminster Diocese Education Service. He needs to take a personal interest and reverse these very damaging changes."

"Like many CVMS parents we are dismayed by the actions of the Diocese. Why is Paul Barber not concentrating his efforts on failing Catholic schools?"

 "The curious thing about this dispute is the fact that the Church's own teaching is that it is the parents who are "the primary and principal educators" (the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Catholic Education) of their children; the role of the Church is to support them in that endeavour. The centrality of parents in this educational role was underlined by Pope John Paul, who wrote that " is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others" (Apostolic Exhortation, 'Familiaris Consortio').
The anxieties of the Vaughan Parents' Action Group must be seen in the context of this teaching, which is far more congruent with government policy on parental involvement than the Diocese's decision that parents of current pupils are unsuitable for appointment as Foundation Governors.
 The Vaughan has been an outstandingly successful school since its foundation as a national memorial to Cardinal Vaughan, providing excellent educational opportunities to pupils of all backgrounds from all parts of London. The fact that it is always heavily oversubcribed demonstrates the high level of demand for more schools in the Vaughan mould, rather than for the Vaughan to be made more like other schools."   (my emphasis)

Christina Odone concludes:

 "Michael Gove has made it clear he supports faith schools, and has invited many of them to become Academies, with greater parental involvement and greater autonomy from local authorities. Cardinal Vaughan parents would dearly love to take advantage of these freedoms; the Westminster Diocese, however, is openly hostile to Academies.
The irony of a Catholic education service turning its back on a Secretary of Education who actually supports faith schools is not lost on Michael Gove. He is, as one political source admitted, “exasperated by the Diocese and its heavy-handed attempts to take over Cardinal Vaughan”. As a consummate politician, Gove will not want to take sides in a diocesan dispute, but will wait for Archbishop Nichols to take the matter in hand. On February 2, the Parents’ Action Group at Cardinal Vaughan will hold a prayer vigil to protest against the diocesan interference in the running of their school. The prayer vigil could turn into a deeply embarrassing photo-op.
The Archbishop must act now, before the vigil makes headlines, and before his hitherto sparkling reputation is tarnished."

Faithful Catholic parents, those 'primary and principal educators', with or without connections to the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School will be watching to see what resolution the Archbishop will bring  to the question of  which Catholic children should be offered placements at this school.
The 'ripple' effect of what he decides could be much wider than the Archdiocese of Westminster.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for highlighting what is going on at Cardinal Vaughan - the Vaughan Parents' Action Group has set up a website which provides much background information for anyone wishing to find out more about the dispute. It can be found here