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Gove asked to consider new model of Catholic academy

By on Monday, 17 January 2011

Michael Gove speaks to teaching staff at Haberdashers' Aske's Knights Academy in Bromley, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Michael Gove speaks to teaching staff at Haberdashers' Aske's Knights Academy in Bromley, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

The Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) has urged the Government to consider a new model of academy school that would be part-funded by Catholics, it emerged this week.

Under the current system the Church pays 10 per cent of the capital costs of its schools. If they become academies, they will be funded entirely by the state.
Officials fear that the Catholic education sector could lose its independence if it stops paying the 10 per cent portion of costs.

The negotiation between the CESEW and the Government comes as new figures show that Catholic schools perform better than other state-funded schools on all Ofsted criteria.

Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, chairman of the CESEW, said Catholic schools were a “very good use of taxpayers’ money” and were well liked by parents.
He said criticism of faith schools came from “small but noisy” lobby groups who receive “more publicity than their numbers deserve”. The bishop said: “When you ask parents, they want their children to go to Catholic schools.”

Bishop McMahon said the Government’s academy reform had to be considered carefully.

He said: “We have a system which does cost us a bit of money and for that we get a lot of rights. If someone says to us, ‘you don’t have to pay that any more, but [everything] will be the same’, we kind of wonder. So we have to negotiate every item carefully.

“We feel if we can carry with us that package that has served us so well now for more than 60 years that would be the best option,” the bishop said.

The voluntary-aided state school system – under which the Catholic Church pays a portion of the capital costs of its schools – was established in the Education Act 1944.

One crucial right that officials fear may be lost is the right of Catholic schools to select pupils and senior staff on the basis of their faith.

Oona Stannard, director and chief executive of the CESEW, sent a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove last month asking him to consider a voluntary-aided academy model.

She confirmed this week that the model was being “seriously considered” by the Government.

Once the CESEW has negotiated with the Government it is up to each bishop to decide whether Catholic schools in his diocese ought to become academies.
It is likely that some bishops will accept the offer while others opt out.

Bishop McMahon said he did not expect any clashes between bishops and individual schools as the decision would be made collectively, in consultation with school governors.

Last month Catholic education officials across England and Wales met to discuss whether to take up the Government’s offer.

One key proposal was that a network of schools in a diocese could become academies en masse, under a single academy trust. It was felt this would preserve the idea of a family of Catholic schools.

This week Bishop McMahon and Dr Stannard presented the findings of a report called Value Added: the Distinctive Contribution of Catholic Schools and Colleges in England.

According to the report, Ofsted judged 73 per cent of Catholic secondary schools to be good or outstanding compared to 60 per cent of schools nationally. For primary schools, 74 per cent of Catholic schools were judged outstanding or good compared to 66 per cent nationally.

Dr Stannard said the report showed that high standards were “not a flash in the pan but carefully sustained and nurtured over time.”

She said it demonstrated that Catholic schools achieved excellent exam results but also offered a high standard of moral and spiritual development for their pupils.

Peter Irvine, author of the report and a former schools inspector, said: “It is quite striking and surprising that on every single criterion from five to 16, Catholic schools came out more strongly.”

  • Anonymous

    For control of a company over 50% of the shares are needed, is it not strange that in the case of faith schools only 10% Catholic finding is warranted? How about the 90% of non-catholic tax payers this is hardly fair to them!

    Catholic schools do better overall, but not in comparison to similarly placed schools. It is about that more than anything, and most catholic Schools lie in considerably more affluent areas overall hence the improved scores compared to state schools.

    As an ex-student of a Catholic school I have one other problem – that sometimes they can be immensely unfair, they in fact punish honest non-believers who do not lie on their applications and reward those who do. They also through the experience of friends can lead to excluding children local to the area, who are then forced to travel futher to school.

  • http://twitter.com/annabrown62 anna brown

    I note Bishop McMahon talks about not expecting any clashes between Bishops and individual schools because the decision will be made collectively, in consultation with school governors.

    Will this consultation follow the same model of consultation that is currently being applied to The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London? That is, the imposition of non parent Foundation Governors without any consultation and a determination to appoint a new Headmaster without waiting to see the outcome of the Parent Governor’s legal challenge to determine the legality of the constitution of the Governing body?

  • Mary

    Bishop McMahon said criticism of faith schools came from “small but noisy” lobby groups who receive “more publicity than their numbers deserve”. The bishop said: “When you ask parents, they want their children to go to Catholic schools.” Well said, Bishop Mc Mahon! I would add to that ” criticism of the Vaughan school comes from “small but noisy” lobby groups who receive “more publicity than their numbers deserve”. “When you ask parents, they want their children to go to schools like the Vaughan .”
    Why, then, does Bishop Stack state openly at a meeting with parents that the diocese will not appoint ANY Vaughan parent as a foundation governor as they are too “self interested” ? Does Bishop Stack think all concerned and committed parents are self interested or is it only Vaughan parents who are guilty of caring too much about their school and their children? The CES and the diocese should be reminded that the extra funding for Catholic schools that they talk about in the report above comes from parents: including those parents they so despise and seek to exclude from the governing body of the Vaughan.

  • Toby

    Paulsays,

    Your analogy of a company is wrong as shareholders don’t control the day to day running of a company, they only vote on certain resolutions, the running is left to the directors. Second a company within the limits of the law has freedom to sell what it wants. The governors of a Catholic school only have limited discretions; for example they can’t choose to replace the national curriculum with something more rigorous and of greater value to the pupils.

    Also I can’t believe that it hasn’t occurred to you that if you have a Catholic school educating Catholics, then assuming roughly equivalent levels of funding to each school and equal levels of tax paid by Catholic parents then non-Catholic tax-payers are not subsidising a Catholic education. However, in the case of many Catholic schools there are pupils of other Christian denominations and none; in this case the local Diocese is actually subsidising their education by paying for 10% of it; thus a great deal for non-Catholic taxpayers.

  • Bert

    Mary
    “The CES and the diocese should be reminded that the extra funding for Catholic schools that they talk about in the report above comes from parents: including those parents they so despise and seek to exclude from the governing body of the Vaughan”

    Absolutely correct, and what’s more, why should Catholic parents and indeed Catholics as a whole fund the CES’ Stalinist campaign against Cardinal Vaughan. It appears that Dr Stannard is leading a wholly wrong, doctrinaire campaign that basically suggests that Catholic schools cannot be too successful because that is elitist and elitist is wrong. Exactly the mindset that condemned Catholic schools in the seventies to the role of dumping grounds that set new standards in mediocrity.

  • Anonymous

    Paul has put his finger on precisely the reason why Catholic schools should not be forced to restrict their intake to applicants resident in the immediate area. Catholic schools are often to be found in affluent area through historical accidents, such as an original gift of land. Cardinal Vaughan’s success at all levels of ability has been built on a pan-London intake; it is ironic that it is the Diocese who wants the School to restrict entry to residents in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Europe.

  • Anonymous

    Mr Gove should be wary of this proposal from the CES. Bishop McMahon has a point that making a financial contribution helps to maintain the Church’s historic independence in the running of its schools, but one wonders why such concerns were not raised when Catholic academies were established under the last government.

    Perhaps an answer lies in the Bishop’s statement that “he did not expect any clashes between bishops and individual schools as the decision would be made collectively, in consultation with school governors.” In other words, individual school governing bodies would not be free to take a decision in line with their view of the school’s best interests. The thinking behind the rhetoric of “a family of Catholic schools” is revealed in the proposal “that a network of schools in a diocese could become academies en masse, under a single academy trust.” The advantages that would accrue to an individual school opting for academy status would thus be usurped by a sort of ‘super academy trust’ that would determine admission arrangements, teachers’ pay and conditions, capital spending, holiday dates and all manner of other matters that other academies are able to determine for themselves.

    Parents would no longer have any say in the school their child attends; they would simply apply to the ‘super academy trust’, who would allocate them to a school according to its preferred formula. This could be geographic, as Church authorities seem to prefer at the moment, or it could be by some sort of social engineering formula , such as allocating to each academy one musician, one footballer, two mathematicians, two linguists and so on, so as to ensure “equality” of intake, and finally prove that no Catholic school is any better than any other

  • Hazel_pratt

    Yes, we should restore the holy days of obligation, Good Friday, Easter Sunday in particular. But because of the work ethos many people are unable to attend Mass now on Holy days of obligation. Employers are reluctant to give employees time off to attend Mass on Sundays. Twenty four hour opening hours is in my opinion the scurge of our society. No day is now set aside for family life. As stated in the bible “God rested on the Sabbath” and so should we all. Hazel

  • paulsays

    In a company the shareholders have control in the direction of the company. If they want a change in how the business is run then they can pressure the board to make changes. They have the power to entirely replace the board with people of their choosing, effectively therefore they have the control I was referring to. If you want to be pedantic about my exact choice of metaphor then I think you are missing my point.

    Yes it is true that non catholic children will benefit from the 10% subsidy, however if you take into consideration the changes in education in terms of buying new religious textbooks, building appropriate religious spaces and employing a larger RE department, it probably is of negligible benefit. The point I am making however is not one of resources, but of control of what is taught in terms of religious teachings, in terms of science teaching and in terms of teaching of sexual health and moral matters all may come from a Catholic point of view, that quite obviously parents of non-believers do not want their children to have to be taught. The usual rebuke to this is that they should send their children elsewhere, but consider how that is fair when as tax payers they are paying for the majority of the running of the Catholic school itself. Hardly fair.

  • veronica

    Paul, it seems you would rather all schools were exactly the same, presumably following your preferred model. Don’t you think it is a good thing to allow choice in education?

  • veronica

    Paul, it seems you would rather all schools were exactly the same, presumably following your preferred model. Don’t you think it is a good thing to allow choice in education?

  • Toby

    Paul,

    Non-Catholic parents are in many cases banging down the doors to get their children into Catholic schools, doing token Mass attendance to get the place at the school for their children. What they are not doing is campaigning for the school to change its teachings. It is these teachings and the educational environment that it creates that make them want to send their children their. They want them to have education that is not conducted in a values’ vacuum.

    If you tell me which particular aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools you take issue with we can debate these. Perhaps, seeing as you mentioned it, let’s start with science.

    Finally with regard to you points about costs in buying new books and building places of worship, I don’t think you’ll find that anything in the proposals is talking about creating new schools; so those points are largely redundant.

  • paulsays

    ‘They want them to have education that is not conducted in a values’ vacuum.’
    I agree, nobody wants this. If only the Church would stick to a moral code that is acceptable and then I could agree that Catholic schools would be a good idea. Ideas such as the no support for divorce under any circumstances, the denigration of homosexuals (how could teachers try and alleviate homophobic bullying, when under a Church that has described homosexuality as a ‘perversion’,), irrational opposition to abortion at every stage, rejection of contraception etc.. are potentially damaging ideas to young minds. Regardless, a school should not be teaching morals in this respect, but helping pupils to form their own moral framework.

    Through your phrasing you also give the impression that no secular organisation could have any morals, or teach any good behaviour, you must know that this simply is not true. Are you suggesting that anyone who is not Catholic (such as myself) live in a ‘values vacuum’, because I hope you realize how insulting and wrong that is. Of course parents will be ensnared by the promise of ‘Christian ethos’ but the truth is that the reason the schools are better is because they come from better catchment areas.

    Does it not also feel wrong to you that non-religious parents feel that they have to lie to teachers and priests in interviews to prove that they are Catholic, especially considering it could be their local school?

  • paulsays

    Choice at the expense of local children being told they cannot go to their local school? Choice at the expense of indoctrination of children? A choice that the children themselves do not make?
    I don’t believe choice is particularly helpful; what is important is a varied and wide-ranging curriculum and high investment in our children’s eduction.

  • paulsays

    I agree. Also let it be noted that in Britain we have some of the longest working hours and worst overtime pay in Europe. The culture in Europe is usually to have shops closed on a Sunday, and in France to have a very long lunch break.

    To any right-wingers out there lets remember that it was Margaret Thatcher that increased shop opening hours to Sundays, and refused a minimum wage – so much for ‘family values’

  • Toby

    Paul at one point you are criticising lack of choice and then saying that choice isn’t helpful? Lots of children would rather not go to school; would you give them this choice? They would rather not have a bath; would you give them this choice? We make children do as we wish in many instances against their wishes, because we believe that we know what is best for them. It was ever thus.

    We all indoctrinate our children, we want to teach them what is right and wrong. Catholic parents want consistency between what is being said in the home and what is being said at school.

    There is no large group of parents of children at Catholic schools that I am aware of that is seeking to have the Catholicity of their children’s educations watered down (in fact many seek the very opposite).

    As such I cannot see what your issue is. Either you’re a moral fascist and wish to impose your morality upon everybody else (ironically the same accusation that is levelled at Catholics) or are you taking issue with parents being allowed to teach their children anything.

  • Anonymous

    Point out to me if you will where I said that choice was a benefit in education? I have not argued for choice in education as far as I can tell… If what you referring to is my complaint that local children may be banned from attending local schools because of their parents lack of religion then that is barely choice I am advocating – it is simply the idiocy of the system I am pointing out.

    You then go on to ridicule my supposed proposition that children should not be told to do things – such as get a bath or go to school. This is an obviously unfair portrayal of my point of view as going to school or washing are actions that need to take place – they have no moral implications, whereas what children are taught in school obviously does.

    I understand your argument about Catholic parents wanting consistency between home and school in terms of belief systems. However for the remaining 9/10ths of the population that do not attend Church every week how is this beneficial for them or their children? It seems quite unfair considering around 50% British schools are religious, and only 10% attend Church each week.

    On your final point – accusing me of being a ‘moral fascist’, is madness. I would like I school system in which morals are developed, rather than being taught or forced upon Children. This is hardly fascism, I am advocating freedom to think and make individual moral judgements – certainly an important skill. But by know means would I want my ‘brand’ of morality ‘taught’ by no means, no.

  • mary

    Paulsays: “I don’t think choice is particularly helpful”
    Interestingly, the Director of the Westminster Diocese Education Service , Paul Barber , would agree with you Paul. He doesn’t believe parents should be given a choice either. He thinks they should go to their local school . This model works well if you live in an affluent part of London but is not so helpful to those who live in more disadvantaged neighbourhoods. I think that choice is a way of driving up standards. It soon becomes clear that parents want a certain type of school and other schools are therefore encouraged to “raise their game”.
    Unfortunately for Cardinal Vaughan school, the diocese, for the first time since the school opened , wish to deny those parents who do not live close the school the chance to go there.

  • Anonymous

    Choice in schools is really a bit of a different debate from religious schools.
    The problem with the current ‘choice’ based system is that although you can choose different schools it is only within a certain catchments area. So as expected schools in less affluent areas tend to sink and schools in more affluent areas tend to do very well, (hence my argument over Catholic school performance).

    The problem with ‘choice’ is that there are only so many school places in good schools to go around, and as it stands you are at a substantial advantage for these places if you are religious or if you live within the catchments. If it was the case that parents had true choice then all the bad schools would stand empty because no parent would want to send their child to them.

    In my eyes the very fairest solution would be for catchments areas to be abolished. Instead; similar to what happened during the 70s and 80s in America in which black children were ‘bussed’ from their local schools to predominately white schools to reduce the de facto segregation that was occurring between whites and blacks.

    My ‘bussing’ scheme would be similar, I would want it to take in ideas such as racial groups, but most importantly would be family income and the area of residence of the child’s family.

    From this information children from different backgrounds would be evenly distributed, and schools in terms of a performance point of view would be more level.

    I would like to think the result of this mix would be an overall increase in academic performance overall with a reduction in performance at the top end.

    Problems with the solution are difficulty in administering any form of parental choice, splitting up of school friends between primary and secondary schools and a reduction in performance of the very best schools. It also would also ban religious schools from selecting in any respect. I do think it is the fairest method nonetheless.

  • mary

    In response to paulsays: Thank you for your thoughtful response. We will never agree but I do understand your view and I respect it. Mary