CES News (107)

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 11:04

The Wednesday Word

Sharing Sunday’s Gospel

The Wednesday Word is a 21st Century mission for Catholic primary schools, and a simple mid-week habit of prayer and reflection on the Word of God for parishioners and Catholic school families. Linked to the celebration of Sunday Mass, this is a new way to share the Gospel and the teaching of the Catholic Church, rooting the partnership between home, school and parish in the Word of God.

THERE ARE TWO VERSIONS OF THE WEDNESDAY WORD LEAFLET:

The Primary School version and the Parish version.

In support of the New Evangelisation, the President of the Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, has endorsed The Wednesday Word: a new and lively, mid-week (Wednesday) contact between the Church and primary school families. The enthusiasm of so many Catholic headteachers, school governors, RE coordinators, teachers and parish priests around the country to share the Word of God in this new way has been overwhelming – it’s ‘Good News’ for families.

 ‘GOOD NEWS’ FOR FAMILY FAITH

The best and most memorable stories in life are true. They are usually about some significant happening that has made a big difference in a person's life. The Wednesday Word mission (to send God’s Word into primary school family homes each week) started through a Catholic school family’s awakening and growth in faith - through reading the gospels together. Dannie (a married father of 3 children) was a lapsed Catholic for many years. He rediscovered his faith and returned to the Church after being encouraged to read the gospels. Over time, wanting to share what he had found with his family, he started to read the gospel with his wife and children too. Together they talked about the gospel’s meaning and relevance for their lives together. This special ‘Gospel Family Time’ proved to be a great way for the family to discuss faith and many other aspects of their lives - deepening their relationship with Christ, their local parish church and, indeed, strengthening their family relationships. 

SCHOOL MISSION - SOWING SEEDS

Evangelisation for school parents:putting the Word of God, each week, into the home of every child in a Catholic primary school From very small beginnings, The Wednesday Word primary school resource developed.

Primarily, The Wednesday Word is an agent for the New Evangelisation, gently informing non-churchgoing parents about the ‘Good News’ and the relevance of the Christian faith. With its focus on the Sunday Gospel, this primary school resource is an attractive and colourful double-sided A4 leaflet which is designed to sow the seeds of God's Word; especially among the majority of parents who do not take their children to church. Statistics tell us this can be as high as 80% or above in many schools. The children receive the primary school version of The Wednesday Word, as a gift, in school each week for them to carry into the family home to read with their parents. In this way the Word is sent out by the school, just as (in the Parable) the Sower sends out the Seed, and so The Wednesday Word makes the Word of God present in thousands of school family homes each week, creating a new and powerful opportunity for the evangelisation of school parents.

GOSPEL FAMILY TIME CUSTOM

A new family habit of prayer and reflection based on the Sunday Gospel.

It is the parents who are the primary educators in their children's faith and The Wednesday Word helps them in this role, and also acts as a regular reminder of and invitation to Church.  The resource also seeks to evangelise through a special ‘Gospel Family Time’ section on the back page. We suggest a particular day for ‘Gospel Family Time’ to help parents connect the name of the resource with the day on which they receive it from school (Wednesday). Since most of us are creatures of habit, nominating the same day each week helps families develop a new family custom of mid-week prayer. Moreover, Wednesday is the day which the Catholic Church dedicates to St Joseph, who is the Patron Saint of Families and Protector of the Church. 

PARISHIONERS PRAYER CUSTOM

Forming hearts and minds to hear and understand the Word of God on Sunday

The success of the school mission is supported through parish prayer. The Parish version of The Wednesday Word is available free-of-charge on The Wednesday Word website (www.wednesdayword.org). This is a black and white resource which is designed for parish priests to download and print on the parish bulletin (or as a stand-alone leaflet) each week. It is offered as a gift for all parishioners to take home to be prayed on the following Wednesday, either individually or with other family members at home, or in small groups in the parish or the home. With its focus on the following Sunday’s Gospel, the Parish version invites all adult parishioners to encounter Christ regularly through this new Wednesday habit of prayer and reflection on the Word of God. This is a fruitful way to prepare for the hearing of the gospel at the following Sunday Mass. Moreover, it encourages parishioners to support the school mission by praying for (and in solidarity with) the families of our primary schools, thereby enhancing the spiritual communion between home, school and parish. 

STRENGTHENING THE HOME, SCHOOL & PARISH PARTNERSHIP

When schools, parents and parishes work together, they deliver the best possible start for the faith-life of the children. A deep spiritual communion, based on the Word of God, between parishioners and school families on the same day each week will help build up the Body of Christ in school and in church and in the home. For more information please see: www.wednesdayword.org

 
Wednesday, 05 December 2012 10:59

Schools of the Lord’s service

‘May the choirs of angels come to greet you.  May they speed you to paradise.’  A small group of pupils from years 5 and 6 of St Laurence’s Primary School, Cambridge, sang the gentle response, beautifully led by their headteacher cantor.  They were helping the congregation of relatives and friends in St John the Baptist Cathedral, Norwich, bid a loving farewell to Fr Ben Grist, whom they had known during his student placement.  Fr Ben had recently received the gift of ordination at the end of the fourth year of his studies, as he moved through the final stages of cancer.  

 

Two weeks earlier, the same Cathedral, full to overflowing, had been the venue for a great celebration by the Diocese of East Anglia of the opening of the Year of Faith.  At the end of Mass, people from across the Diocese watched as representatives from all the Catholic schools came forward to accept gifts of the Catechism and learning resources.

 

The presence of pupils at these celebrations demonstrated some of the ways in which our schools proclaim the gospel.  It showed the determination, on the part of the staff of our schools, to remain true to their mission of educating children and young people in faith and helping them to understand the way in which that faith is celebrated.  Long liturgies in cathedrals may not be the most accessible experience even for adults who are familiar with the ‘language’ of faith, but the children’s conduct showed that their teachers had prepared them carefully.

 

It also made evident the support which is often given to schools by the clergy.  The children and young people were provided with all the facilities they needed, and it was clear that much thought had been given to what would be helpful to them.  At the celebration for the opening of the Year of Faith, the Diocesan Administrator, Fr David Bagstaff, preached a homily which engaged their interest while still giving the adults plenty of food for thought.  At the end of the celebration, the children processed out before the rest of the congregation, ensuring they were able to get to a different kind of food without delay!

 

The presence of the children at Fr Ben’s funeral highlighted the way in which Catholic schools and colleges develop, from the earliest years, the recognition of death as not only a time of loss and sadness, but also of joy for the person who is experiencing transformation into risen life.  Making a commitment to this perspective on death is not easy in a society where belief in eternal life is uncertain.  The comment of a monk of Ampleforth, that where all schools prepare their pupils for life, ‘we prepare them for death’, brings us up sharply against a truth which to many in our culture appears to be a paradox.

 

Our schools and colleges stand at the interface of deeply committed faith and a society and culture which finds it increasingly difficult to acknowledge the reality of God.  They have to play the game according to the rules of government, Department for Education, Ofsted and Local Authorities, and, as we would expect, achieve the highest standards of professionalism in teaching and learning and standards of achievement.  But through all of this, they do not forget the fundamental reason for their existence – through the education of children and young people, to proclaim the gospel, in all its challenge and joy.

 

There are no other countries where the system of education offers the Catholic community comparable opportunities for evangelisation.  Our schools form an integral part of our national education system, and we can use that position to engage with, challenge, influence and support society itself.  As a Church, we can sometimes overlook this and assume our business is the parish.  But as Pope Benedict explained with such clarity in his address in Westminster Hall, ‘the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilisation.’  The existence of our schools and colleges, and their commitment to proclaiming the gospel, provide a superb foundation and catalyst for this dialogue.

 

Dr Dilys Wadman DSG is the former Director of Education for Archdiocese of Southwark

 

Today the Catholic Education Service launched its Digest of 2012 Census Data for Schools and Colleges. The data shows the prominent role of Catholic education in England and Wales with 2257 Catholic schools and colleges educating 838,756 pupils and employing 52,436 Teachers and 39,102 support staff.

The finding build upon previous year’s census which asks all Catholic schools and colleges in England and Wales to provide data on the number, Catholicity and social background of their pupils and teachers.

The data shows a number of positives:

•20 % of pupils at Catholic secondary schools live in the most deprived areas (17% nationally).

•Catholic schools are more ethnically diverse than national averages (33.5% of Catholic primary school pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds compared with 27.6% nationally.)

•The Catholicity of both the pupil and teacher population has risen slightly from previous years with 71% of pupils and 55.6% of teachers at Catholic schools stated as Catholic.

Additional research into school performance continues to show that Catholic schools and colleges are outperforming national averages. 

•74.7% of Catholic primary schools have Ofsted grades of good or outstanding (64% nationally)

•At age 11, Catholic schools outperform national average English and Maths SATs scores by 6%

•At GCSE, Catholic schools outperform the national average by 4.9%

Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP, Chairman of the Catholic Education Service said “We are very pleased to welcome these figures which show the enormous and important contribution that Catholic education makes to the common good of our society. The strength of our Catholic sector is based upon the respect for the individual, as a Child of God. Our Catholic schools continue to be a reflection of the diverse communities which we serve.”

Ends

Further data on Catholic education can be found in CES’s Digest of 2012 Census Data for Schools and Colleges available at www.catholiceducation.org.uk. (The Census return rate from Catholic schools and colleges was 98%).  

Performance statics for Catholic Education can be found in the Key Facts 2012 available at www.catholiceducation.org.uk

A podcast explaining the Census can be found at http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/education-census-2012-podcast.
Friday, 26 October 2012 10:48

Catholic values from my Catholic School

Preparing for university is proving to be an extremely exciting time. My A-level study stretched me to the limits of my capabilities, learning as much about Nuclear Physics as I did about the importance of discipline, focus and endurance. It's now very easy, only a few months on, to dismiss the mammoth challenge they presented thinking 'they weren't really that difficult'. Then the consecutive string of all night revision sessions and seeing the library staff more than I did my brothers and sisters springs delightfully back to memory. I am now pleased to have successfully completed them (more, importantly dispelled them from my life for good) and looking forward to commencing undergraduate study in Politics and Sociology at The University of Bristol.

I can truly feel the transition into young adulthood, being constantly reminded of the multiple tasks I am encouraged to complete independently. From completing application forms for accommodation and financial support to buying bedding sets and crockery. Having also spent the summer working part-time at the Stratford Westfield shopping centre and on the Olympic park, my exposure to responsibility has been considerably heightened. This has all set the context in preparing for 'real' adulthood and building my character for the future that lies ahead.

However, my most distinct period of personal development lies in the 7 years I spent at Our Lady's Convent High School in Hackney. An area amazingly rich in diversity coupled with a variety of socio-economic difficulties provided a very interesting setting for secondary education. Founded on the values of the Servite order, the importance of service is treasured as an essential Catholic teaching. We learnt through practical action, organising trips to local residential homes at Christmas to deliver decorated hampers, becoming involved in social campaigns and being constantly encouraged to be active stewards within our community. During my time at Our Lady's, it became apparent how we show our faith and love for God through the relationships we keep with our neighbours and the efforts we make to improve our universal community. A verse I am sure to never to forget comes from the book of James which makes the point that faith without works is dead. I was among a delegation from my school to be invited to a conference hosted by Harvard University, for our participation in a variety of campaigns pioneered by Citizens UK to present this very message.

Serving my school community as Head Girl was the culmination of years of extra-curricular involvement within the school. I felt exceedingly privileged to be able to represent the student body and lead the school council working towards the school's ongoing development towards improved excellence. All my experiences during these crucially formative years are surely guaranteed to place me in good stead at university and in my further endeavours. I now look upon my younger sister with gleaming eyes as she begins her journey at Our Lady's in year 7, seeing in her what I hope most saw in me. A bright young lady that's full of potential, with a future of endless possibilities.

Inez Sarkodee-Adoo completed her studies at Our Lady’s Convent High School, Hackney this summer and now is in her first term at the University of Bristol.
Friday, 26 October 2012 10:46

Academies in the Diocese of Nottingham

The government’s agenda for change in education includes the option for schools of any persuasion to consider conversion to academy status (an ‘academy’ is a state funded independent school).  Indeed, government policy is openly one of encouraging conversion; they would like to see ‘academies as the norm’.  What we desire as guardians of Catholic schools is to ensure that our schools offer the best education possible to our young people so ‘that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).  This means offering them a high quality academic, personal, social, physical, spiritual and moral education built on the solid foundation of the teachings and practice of the Catholic faith.  What we want is to support parents in educating our young people so that they have every opportunity to flourish as confident and courageous Catholics; to become those who know how to give something back, to work for the common good.  

So, can these ‘policies’ or ‘ideals’ fit together?  There is not an easy answer to this.  Some would say that they can and others that they can’t.  Here in the Diocese of Nottingham, we liaise with twelve Local Authorities and, on the whole, these have been successful partnerships that have been of benefit to our schools over the years.  It is also true to say that there have been some difficulties, particularly in relation to funding formulas, provision (or not) of school transport, and so on.  Local Authority (L.A.) policy on education and, specifically on academy conversion, varies widely even within our diocese.  The picture across the country as a whole is even more variable.  In some areas there is no longer a School Support Service within the L.A. leaving schools to buy services from an increasingly expanding educational marketplace.  All this means that a single response, or implementation of a single model for Catholic schools nationally is no longer appropriate or even possible.  New ways of thinking about how schools operate and work together and how they are supported to improve need to be carefully developed and considered taking into account these local variations.  It goes without saying that, the core principles for Catholic education will always be shared and central to the mission of our diocesan education services and schools.  Whether or not a school is Voluntary-Aided, Independent or an Academy is not the driving force, “…the life of faith needs to be the driving force… so that the Church’s mission may be served effectively, and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others’ (Spe Salvi, 28).”  (Pope Benedict XVI, St. Mary’s College, Twickenham, September 2010).

In the Diocese of Nottingham, following a great deal of dialogue with Headteachers and governors, undertaken by its Education Service, the Trustees took the decision to embrace the academy programme and to give their consent for schools to convert to academy status as part of multi-academy trusts.  Already our schools are organised into what we know as ‘families of schools.’  That is, a secondary school and its partner primary schools.  These families of schools vary in size from three to seven schools.  Historically, the effectiveness of the informal collaboration between these groups of schools has been variable.  Some families of schools have developed excellent collaborative practice, meeting together regularly, for example, to plan joint teacher training days for staff, often on religious or spiritual formation and education, and so on.  Other families of schools have only been able to meet rarely and have not really established a consistent pattern of collaboration.   Coming together to form what is a single legal entity as a Catholic multi-Academy Trust gives our schools a chance to crystallise these partnerships creating strategic opportunities to develop and learn together so that all may flourish; the stronger supporting the weaker, so that no school is left behind.  

In one of our first Catholic Academy Trusts, formed in September 2011, the Directors (Governors) as employers, have appointed some key personnel to work across the family of schools: a Lay Chaplain; a School Social Worker from one of our partner organisations ‘Faith in Families’ (formerly the Catholic Children’s Society) to offer support to children in vulnerable families and an Educational Welfare Officer, as the L.A. no longer provides one.  The advantages of these arrangements for the children and families speak for themselves in terms of continuity – the Chaplain, the EWO, the Family Support Worker, will all be available to families as the young people move through the system from 3 to 18 years of age.  Opportunities for the creation of some shared administration and finance staffing structures are also being explored by some of our multi-academy trusts as are the possibilities of appointment of specialist teaching and support staff – modern foreign languages, special educational needs, specialist sport and music teachers, being the most obvious examples.

The Diocesan Education Service (DES) continues to support all its schools and academies with advice on religious education, collective worship, governance, admissions, Section 48 Inspection, and so on.   The DES is also exploring new ways of supporting its schools and academies, for example , recently developing a pilot project with Church Marketplace and a group of School Business Managers with a view to brokering (not providing) services specifically suited to Catholic schools and academies, e.g. Human Resources advice and support.  

Currently there are eight Catholic Academy Trusts in the Diocese of Nottingham formed by 31 academies.  On October 1st, a further seven schools will convert bringing the total number of academies to 38; this represents 45% of our schools.  Our view is that, by coming together to form Catholic Academy Trusts, our schools will be a in a stronger position to face the challenges of an uncertain and continually changing future.

Gail Neill is the Director of Education for the Diocese of Nottingham.
 
Monday, 15 October 2012 11:33

Education, ethics and ethos

The Anscombe Bioethics Centre (formally called the Linacre Centre) was founded in 1977 by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. Our focus is on healthcare ethics, and we approach this in a number of ways.  We respond to consultations.  We engage in research into new and challenging ethical questions.  We provide healthcare practitioners and the public with a Catholic perspective on ethical issues, new and old. 

Attitudes of professionals, policy-makers and the public are shaped by education and the school curriculum covers bioethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia.  Hence, the Centre has embarked on a project specifically to support Catholic education in relation to ethics. This project will include the publication of a book on the ethos of a Catholic School and also a conference in Oxford taking place later this month.  

The topic of ‘ethos’ is one that emerged from our work with teachers. Often we would be invited to a school to speak on a particular topic, such as the ethics of stem cell research.  However, in discussion we frequently found that the questions became much broader: Was the Church opposed to scientific progress? Had she not been opposed to science in the past? Is morality ultimately subjective? How can the Church require people to agree with her moral teaching? Is teaching the truth of Catholic belief just indoctrination? These questions relate to fundamental questions of worldview:  questions not just of ethics but of ethos. 

In the context of the cultural diversity of British society, Catholics often find themselves having to justify the continued existence of Catholic Schools. This question is not only posed by prominent atheists but also by Christians, including some Catholics. What are Catholic Schools for?

Before answering this question it is worth asking another, perhaps overlooked question: What is any school for? Parents, pupils, teachers, universities, potential employers, politicians all look to schools to achieve different things:   to deliver qualifications, to impart skills, to prepare pupils for further studies or employment or both. Schools also keep children off the streets and enable parents to work - a function that becomes very obvious during the school holidays.

Schools fulfil many purposes but their primary aim is, or ought to be, to educate. A school is a place of learning not only about this or that but learning aimed at becoming a certain kind of person:   a person who can flourish in society, an ethical person. Understood in this way, the task of education is essentially concerned with ethics, with helping pupils learn what it is to think and feel and act in an ethical way. This is not just done through study; the character and atmosphere of the school also have a strong role to play.

The point of Catholic schools, therefore, is to educate children according to a Catholic understanding of ethics - a Catholic understanding of what it is to flourish as a human being.  But this leads to another question.  Is there any such thing as a Catholic understanding of ethics? Surely if an action is good or bad then it is good or bad for everyone, not just for Catholics. However, even if this is true (and it needs some qualification) it is clear that not everyone agrees about what is good or bad. The Catholic Church draws on a particular tradition of ethical wisdom, and it is this ethical wisdom that Catholic schools exist to foster. 

The Anscombe Centre conference on Tuesday 30th October (10am-4pm at St Gregory the Great Catholic School, Oxford OX4 3DR) is an excellent opportunity to think about ethics, science and religion in the curriculum and across the school.  Speakers include Fr Andrew Pinsent, Research Director at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, and Fr Tim Gardner OP, a school chaplain and RE teacher who is Department Secretary (Catholic Education and Formation) at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The day is for teachers, school leadership and others involved in education (such as school governors), and is initially, but not exclusively, geared towards those attached to Catholic Schools. Bookings and the latest updates are available at www.bioethics.org.uk and at goo.gl/Wx29dW or by phone on 01865 610 212. 

Prof David Albert Jones is Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford.

 

Every Catholic school in England and Wales has been been invited to begin the forthcoming Year of Faith by having a week of prayer and service inspired by a young saint.

The joint initiative of the Bishops’ Department for Education and Formation, and also Evangelisation and Catechesis, is called ‘Little Way Week’ and is being run from 6 - 12 October. Many of the resources are not date specific which means it could also be offered any time during this academic year. Little Way Week coincides with the opening of the Year of Faith on 11 October which has as its focus ‘The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith’. The Year marks the 50 anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and also coincides with a gathering of bishops from across the world in Rome. One of the key emphases of the Year of Faith is to know better the Catholic Faith. Everyone is invited to participate in this year of celebration and mission, mindful that faith is not meant to be private, but professed and shared.

In support of the celebration of the Year in Catholic schools, the Little Way Week initiative aims to encourage everyone in the school community to pray and to serve one another and their local communities doing at least one activity, every day for a week. The initiative is inspired by the example and spiritual teaching of of St Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who died when she was just 24 years old. Thérèse wrote:  “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” At a very young age she came to understand that everyone can grow in holiness and witness to God’s love by doing little things for love of Him and others every day.

Bishop Malcolm McMahon, Chair of the Department of Education and Formation of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: “I am delighted to commend the ‘Little Way Week’ and I hope very much that all of our schools will use it as an opportunity to follow the example of St Thérèse of Lisieux in undertaking simple acts of loving witness. Following her ‘Little Way’ teaches us to do the ordinary things of life with extraordinary love. At the heart of this is our faith that Jesus is the power for love and goodness in our lives, and so the Little Way Week will provide the best possible start to our celebration of the Year of Faith in our schools and communities.”

Meanwhile Bishop Kieran Conry, Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said: “Little Way Week is a wonderful initiative that the whole school community can participate in to witness to God’s love through service. Let us imitate St Thérèse as someone who found deep and lasting joy and happiness in doing little things for Jesus and those around her.”

On the Bishops’ Conference website a number of free resources are available to schools. There are several video recordings of circle time with primary age children and video reflections provided by CAFOD for use with secondary age students. Whilst the primary school lesson plan focuses on teaching about nurturing virtues, the secondary school lessons have as their focus role models and what Christian love in action means. Also online are stickers, teachers’ leaflets, posters, scripture resources to be used daily in the classroom, assembly formats, as well as other materials. All the materials are available from: http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/little-way-week

In partnership with Premier Christian Radio a national art competition for schools is being run with prizes being awarded in two categories - primary school children aged 5 - 11 years old and secondary school students aged 11 - 18. The theme of the competition is “Helping Others: Expressing Faith in Little Ways” and entrants are invited to submit their entry through their school. More information and an online entry form is available from: http://www.premier.org.uk/hearttoheart  

The Week is being coordinated by the Bishops’ Conference Home Mission Desk, in partnership with the Catholic Education Service. The hope is that every school will participate in some way as the launch pad for a year of activities to celebrate and share the Catholic Faith.

 

Clare Ward 

Home Mission Desk of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

 

This month marks the start of the Catholic Education Service‘s (CES) campaign for the inclusion of Religious Education in new reforms to Key Stage 4 public examinations. CES is keen to promote Religious Education as an academic subject which is at the heart of the curriculum in Catholic Schools and therefore deserves recognition in the proposed reforms. The statement below outlines the reasoning behind CES’s campaign, which will run till the end of the consultation period on 10th December 2012.

 

It is the view of the Catholic Church that good quality, well taught Religious Education is always and everywhere beneficial to pupils and therefore to society as a whole. Critical reflection upon the nature and content of religious belief can only contribute positively to the education of the whole person.

However, in Catholic schools Religious Education has a privileged place. The first principle of Catholic education is that parents must be able to exercise genuine choice in their children’s education. This principle has been consistently affirmed in the teaching of the Church and is enshrined in Canon Law.

It is a matter of justice, then, that Catholic parents be free to choose authentically Catholic schools for their children. As Pope Blessed John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, “The special character of the Catholic school, the underlying reason for it, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the education of the pupils.” 

Religious Education is not just an important facet of the curriculum of the Catholic school, it is the very core of the whole curriculum and entire ethos of that school. For this reason more than any other, the current proposals for the English Baccalaureate Certificate (which seem to exclude Religious Education from the core curriculum) are profoundly troubling.

In our view, current GCSEs in Religious Studies would benefit from reform. Pupils already benefit enormously from their study of GCSE RS, and it is a subject which, given the chance, can more than hold its own in a reformed system of examinations. Allowing Catholic schools to place Religious Education at the heart of the curriculum through an enriched English Baccalaureate is one way to achieve this.

 

Every Catholic school in England and Wales has been invited to begin the forthcoming Year of Faith by having a week of prayer and service inspired by a young saint.

The joint initiative of the Bishops’ Department for Education and Formation, and also Evangelisation and Catechesis, is called ‘Little Way Week’ and is being run from 6 - 12 October. It aims to encourage everyone in the school community to pray and to serve one another and their local communities doing at least one activity, every day for a week. The initiative is inspired by the example and spiritual teaching of of St Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun who died when she was just 24 years old. Thérèse came to understand that everyone can grow in holiness and witness to God’s love by doing little things for love of Him and others every day.

Bishop Malcolm McMahon, Chair of the Department of Education and Formation of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: “I am delighted to commend the ‘Little Way Week’ and I hope very much that all of our schools will use it as an opportunity to follow the example of St Thérèse of Lisieux in undertaking simple acts of loving witness. Following her ‘Little Way’ teaches us to do the ordinary things of life with extraordinary love. At the heart of this is our faith that Jesus is the power for love and goodness in our lives, and so the Little Way Week will provide the best possible start to our celebration of the Year of Faith in our schools and communities.”

Meanwhile Bishop Kieran Conry, Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said: “Little Way Week is a wonderful initiative that the whole school community can participate in to witness to God’s love through service. Let us imitate St Thérèse as someone who found deep and lasting joy and happiness in doing little things for Jesus and those around her.”

The Week will coincide with the opening of the Year of Faith on 11 October which Pope Benedict XVI has initiated. The Year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and also coincides with a gathering of bishops from across the world in Rome for a synod themed, ‘The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith’. One of the key emphases of the Year of Faith is to know better the Catholic Faith. Everyone is invited to participate in this year of celebration and mission, mindful that faith is not meant to be private, but professed and shared.

Free downloadable resources for schools include: lesson plans, teachers’ leaflets, scripture reflections, videos, assembly formats and there is also a national art competition being offered in partnership with Premier Christian Radio. The materials are available from: http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/little-way-week Information about the art competition is available from: http://www.premier.org.uk/littleway

The Week is being coordinated by the Bishops’ Conference Home Mission Desk, in partnership with the Catholic Education Service.

 
Friday, 21 September 2012 12:20

Your school needs you

For young people up and down the country a new year has just begun, with the school year in September bringing more change in their lives than January.    For many children in our parish families this could mean beginning life in one of the over 2000 Catholic schools in England, perhaps at four years old or at eleven with the move to secondary schools.  The Catholic ethos, rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ, should permeate all aspects of the life of the school. And as part of those values, we want to ensure excellence and that all our young people meet their potential, achieving the most they possibly can and setting them up to take advantage of available opportunities and make a full contribution during the rest of their life. 

These are very challenging times for schools, with greater expectations of teachers and pupils, comparisons made with education systems across the world, information technology changing incredibly fast, jobs being created that were never dreamt of when I was at school, youth unemployment rising and very tight Government funding.  We certainly cannot spend ourselves out of these corners and neither can we return to curriculums of old which catered for a very different world than our young people will find themselves in.  To ensure our children are equipped to succeed, the day-to-day offer by schools to this generation has to be different from the ones we experienced, yet at the same time ensuring our eternal Catholic values remain at its core.    Are you interested in helping Catholic schools rise to these exciting challenges?  There is an important role that a lay member of the parish you can volunteer to do – that of school governor.

School governors are often described as ‘unsung heroes’ including by Government ministers.  Their work is largely hidden from view.  In your parish there will be school governors amongst you who are providing a vital leadership role to our Catholic schools. In Catholic schools, foundation governors – practising Catholics appointed by the Diocese – make up the majority. A foundation governor has a responsibility to preserve and develop the Catholic character of the school, but like all governors, also has to ensure high standards of educational achievement by the children.  

It is the role of the school governing body to both support and challenge the school, in particular to ensure the headteacher is held accountable for the education provided.  Long gone are the days when being a governor was little more than a cup of tea and a chat about how lovely the school is.  Over the years as schools have gained greater independence from local authorities, more duties have been given to governors. Being on a governing body is now much more akin to being on the Trustee Board of a charity or on the Board of Directors of a limited company and Academy governors are now also trustees and directors.  The buck stops with the governing body, and while this is a great responsibility, it can also be incredibly rewarding.   Just under three-quarters of Catholic schools are rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding, but this does leave a significant number requiring dramatic improvement.  Playing a part successfully in such a school can mean watching more children each year leaving more prepared to face the challenges ahead. Even outstanding schools require good governance; schools can be quite fragile places, and an outstanding headteacher leaving a school can make it vulnerable, especially where recruiting a Catholic head is difficult due to short supply of good candidates.   

Governing bodies are a corporate body, made up usually of between 10 and 18 people, and amongst its members the team needs to have a range of skills and diverse from outside the education sector – such as experience of governance in other sectors, strategic planning, staff recruitment, data analysis, performance management, community relations, problem solving, financial management, premises management, procurement, legal expertise, and many others.   Clearly, no one person will bring all of that to the table, but if you do feel you have something to offer and are able to make a commitment, please do consider putting yourself forward to be a Foundation governor at a Catholic school.  You can start the process three-ways – have a conversation with the Chair of Governors at the school nearest you, contact your Parish priest, or contact the Diocesan.  If you are appointed, you should receive induction training, and the National Governor’s Association publishes a ‘Welcome to Governance’ guide which should be of help in your early days (see www.nga.org.uk).   

Emma Knights is Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association and also a foundation governor at the children’s Catholic secondary school

 
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