Tuesday, 09 July 2024 09:06

£1 bus fares and a Home Office U-turn: schools celebrate Catholic Social Teaching campaign success

CTA 1More than 150 students and teachers of Catholic schools from across the country gathered to hear how Catholic Social Teaching has been put into practice in education. 

The 2 July event took place at the Church of the Holy Apostles Parish Hall, Pimlico, and also saw the launch of a community organising handbook, published by charity Citizens UK and featuring the schools’ work

Welcoming speeches were made by the His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; Raymond Friel, Chief Executive of Caritas Social Action Network; and Anita Motha, Chief Executive of Catholic youth charity Million Minutes.

Students at Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Hove, in the Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, explained how they successfully campaigned against a Coptic Christian pupil being deported to South Sudan. After their efforts appeared in a local newspaper and television news bulletins, lawyers offered support and the Home Office reversed its decision. 

The students also secured a pilot project of school-based mental health counselling for Year 9s across Brighton and Hove, after approaching the local council. 

Gráinne Byrd, Director of Faith and Ethos at Cardinal Newman, said: “A recurring motif in Cardinal Newman Catholic School’s involvement with Citizens UK is the repeated call to be ‘light in the darkness’. Working together collaboratively, we have challenged decision makers to be that light.” 

St Thomas More Catholic High School students, in North Shields, Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, discovered that Arriva buses, unlike other bus companies in areas nearby, were charging them adult fares.    

They participated in transport consultations, also persuading the then-Mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority to support the campaign. They dressed in their parents’ work clothes, sang songs and marched peacefully, meeting with Arriva, and ultimately a £1 fare was announced for all under-22s in the region. 

Wimbledon College, in the Archdiocese of Southwark, identified mental health as an important issue that emerged during Merton Citizens assembly meetings with schools and churches. They organised a mental health summit with local decision-makers, eventually securing more NHS youth mental health funding in their area, trained mental health ambassadors, and ‘be well hubs’ across south London. 

St Bonaventure’s Catholic Secondary School, Forest Gate, in the Diocese of Brentwood, had long been served by inadequately-timed and overcrowded bus services. A group of Year 8 students hosted a meeting for bus companies and Transport for London (TfL) representatives, and timetables were swiftly improved.  

After some of their peers had been fined, students also raised the issue of training for drivers and a bus company regarding regulations around travel with lost or damaged travel cards, with positive results.   

At St Antony’s Catholic Primary School, also in Forest Gate and the Diocese of Brentwood, pupils decided to campaign on the issue of low pay. They wrote a song, and performed it in front of management from London City Airport, a major employer in the area, persuading them to become an accredited Living Wage employer.The school was then able to successfully influence other big local employers to do likewise, such as Tate and Lyle Sugars, Newham Council, and ExCeL London. 

St Clare’s Catholic Primary School, Handsworth, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, worked together with across the city to develop a five-step plan to help tackle discrimination and appreciate each other’s differences. They are now working on a video to share their work with others and to support Year 6 and Year 7 transition. 

Cardinal Nichols said: “This work, from my point of view, really does have to spring from our faith.

"Human dignity does not depend on any human authority, it is innate, it comes first because each person is made in the image and likeness of God.”

Download Called To Action: Catholic Social Teaching and Community Organising in Schools and Colleges

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