CES News (125)
The Catholic Education Service has today criticised the Welsh Government’s decision to remove the parental right of withdrawal for Religious Education and Relationships and Sexuality Education, as well as the proposed name change of Religious Education.
The CES expressed dismay with the decision referring to is as a ‘regressive step’ which would undermine ‘parent’s fundamental and inalienable role as the primary educators of their children’.
Hundreds of Catholics parents and teachers responded to the consultation as well as contacted their local Assembly Member about this issue. For the CES, today’s decision represents a complete disregard for the opinions of the Catholic community in Wales.
Full statement below.
Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service commented: “Today’s announcement from the Welsh Government represents a regressive step in the relationship between parents, schools and the State.
“By removing the parental right of withdrawal, these proposals risk undermining parents’ fundamental and inalienable role as the primary educators of their children.
“Many hundreds of Catholics made representations during the consultation. However, it is clear from today’s announcement that the Welsh Government is content with ignoring the views of the Catholic community.
“The proposed name change of Religious Education is also a step in the wrong direction. It is an unnecessary change which does nothing to improve the academic integrity of RE, but represents a dumbing down of the subject and a weakening of the whole school’s responsibility for instilling values and ethics in its pupils.”
As a religious community we value our partnership with the government in the provision of Catholic education. It is a partnership which has flourished over the last 170 years. The fruit of this partnership is the network of more than 2,200 Catholic schools across England and Wales, making the Church the second-largest provider of education in the country.
This relationship has been a resounding success on a secular as well as a pastoral and spiritual level. Not only are Catholic schools some of the highest achieving in the country, they are also considerably more ethnically diverse and take in significantly more pupils from the poorest households than the national average.
With this profile and record, the future existence of Catholic schools should be uncontroversial. However, we know this is not the case. Nationally, there are a number of organisations campaigning either to end the provision of schools in England which have a religious character or to transform the curriculum in such a way that it would remove the ability of Catholic schools to maintain their specific ethos. It is this ethos which makes our Catholic schools so unique and successful.
So now, more than ever before, we cannot take the future of Catholic schools for granted. With the general election imminent and when political parties are canvassing for our support, it is important that we ask about a political party’s commitment to our community’s precious schools.
It is still vital to remember that whoever forms the next government, whether comprised of a single party or a coalition, will implement a legislative agenda which could have a direct impact on both Catholic education and the curriculum that is taught in Catholic schools. We must be conscious too that some political parties, while holding favourable views on schools with a religious character generally, also hold policies that could damage Catholic education specifically. Therefore, it is vital you get answers on where a political party stands on the following issues.
Core principles It is not sufficient for a Catholic school just to be called “Catholic”. There are core principles which protect their ethos and the distinctive education they provide. Among these are the ability to give priority in the school’s admissions criteria to Catholic children, the bishop’s right to appoint the majority of the school’s governors, the right to reserve the school’s senior leadership posts for Catholics; and the right to teach and inspect Catholic Religious Education.
Religious Education Religious Education lies at the centre of the core curriculum in Catholic schools. Ten per cent of school time is dedicated to the subject and it is an academically rigorous theological discipline. Recently we have seen calls to abolish this and rename it “Worldviews” with a nationally set curriculum. Not only would this change the nature of the subject and reduce its importance, it could also result in the state determining how and what the Church teaches about the Catholic faith in Catholic schools – something that would be totally unacceptable.
Support for school leaders, teachers and staff Our school leaders, teachers and support staff are outstanding in the work they do. We need to ensure that political parties are committed to supporting teachers and the vocation of teaching. We hope that any future government will continue to provide support for the formation of Catholic teachers through continuing professional development and teacher training.
Relationships and Sex Education Catholic education is based on the formation of the whole child. Well-taught and age-appropriate Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) is an important part of this. However, even more important is the right of parents, as the primary educators of their children, to be fully consulted and to maintain their ability to withdraw their children from these lessons. While we are confident that the model curriculum in Catholic schools delivers RSE in accordance with the teachings of the Church and the wishes of parents, the same cannot be said for other schools. Hence for Catholic parents who do not have the option to send their child to a Catholic school, it is vital that this parental right remains in place.
New Catholic schools Since 2010, the Church has had to find space for an additional 50,000 pupils without being able to open new schools. As a community, we need to make sure that political parties remain committed to supporting the opening of new Catholic schools without a restriction on the proportion of Catholic children that they are free to admit.
As a Catholic community, we have provided our schools as part of our commitment to the common good of society and the education of young people in our country. For many years these schools have flourished. Now it is time to speak up for them and do our civic and Catholic duty to ensure that they can continue to flourish for many years to come.
The Rt Rev Marcus Stock, chairman
of the Catholic Education Service
and Bishop of Leeds
CES Director, Paul Barber will be speaking at this year’s Schools and Academies show in Birmingham.
Paul will be taking part in a seminar titled Lessons in Collaborative Operational Leadership which takes place at 12:50pm on the 14th November – the second day of the conference.
The Schools & Academies Show takes place bi-annually in April at the ExCeL, London and in November at the NEC, Birmingham. Collectively both shows attract over 8,000 attendees from Schools, MATs, Local Authorities, Central Government and the wider education sector.
The Shows are designed to connect senior decision makers and budget holders from schools with the UK’s leading education suppliers.
Through a combination of pioneering speakers, policy makers, interactive roundtables, innovative features, best-practice case-studies and much more, the Shows aim to provide senior leadership teams with practical advice and solutions to overcome their school’s biggest challenges.
More information about the show can be found here: https://schoolsandacademiesshowbirmingham.co.uk/
High quality Religious Education is essential for producing well rounded, religiously literate young people. In a similar respect, well taught Relationship and Sex Education plays a vital role in preparing children for life in modern Wales as well as keeping them safe.
Therefore, Catholic schools already teach high quality RE and RSE, and they teach it well. In fact, our model RSE curriculum is widely recognised as best practice, not just for Catholic schools but for secular schools as well.
Nevertheless, parents are the primary educators of their children and schools exist to support, not replace them. This is particularly important when dealing with sensitive and deeply personal topics such as faith and RSE. To remove the right of withdrawal would, therefore, be huge erosion of parental rights and represent regressive step in the relationship between parents and the state.
The parental right of withdrawal is an essential principle which incentivises a constructive dialogue between schools and parents. This is what Catholic schools already do, and in 2018 no pupils were withdrawn from RSE in Catholic schools. We see this as a mark of success and not as an excuse to remove this right.
We are also deeply concerned about the proposed name change of RE to include ‘worldviews’ as this would represent a dumbing down of RE. By including a range of non-religious ‘worldviews’ into, what is in Catholic schools, an academically rigorous theological discipline, would water down RE and reduce it to an over-simplistic comparison exercise which fails to understand the deep fundamentals of faith and religion.
Notes to Editors
There are 85 Catholic schools in Wales educating more than 28,000 young people and employing almost 3,000 members of staff.
The Catholic Church and the Church in Wales are the only non-state providers of schools in Wales.
The belief that parents are the primary educators of their children is enshrined in Canon Law (the law of the Catholic Church)
RSE in Catholic schools is faithful to the Church's vision of human wholeness whilst recognising the contemporary context in which we live today.
Links to the Catholic model RSE curriculum can be found here: http://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/schools/relationship-sex-education
RE in Catholic schools is at the core of the core curriculum and accounts for 10% of the timetable. Whilst predominately focused on the Catholic theological tradition, it covers all the major world faiths as well as the atheist critique of religion.
The Bishop of Salford addressed a well-attended fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday.
The reception, organised by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, The Catholic Education Service, and the Catholic Herald, celebrated the work of the Church in public life.
More than 70 MPs, local councillors and party members attended the event to hear from the Bishop of Salford, the Rt Rev. John Arnold.
Bishop John paid tribute to the work of Catholics in public life, thanking them for their vocation to serve the common good.
In his speech he also stressed the need for more kindness in the country’s political discourse as well as the desire for all political parties to prioritise measures to tackle the climate emergency.
The Rt Rev Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds, has been elected as the new Chairman of the Catholic Education Service.
He was elected at the Bishops’ spring plenary held at the Royal English College in Valladolid, Spain and succeeds the Most Rev, Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool.
Archbishop McMahon, who has chaired the CES since 2009, was elected as the Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference.
Bishop Stock was Director of Schools for the Archdiocese of Birmingham between 1999 – 2009 and Acting Director of the CES between 2011 – 13. He has been a member of the Management Committee of the CES since 2015.
Bishop Stock commented: “The Catholic Education Service provides vital support and guidance for dioceses and schools throughout England and Wales, and I look forward as its new Chairman to working with the CES in the years ahead.
“I would like to thank Archbishop McMahon for the dedicated and faithful service he has given to the CES over the last ten years and assure him of our prayers for his new role.”
As part of the revision of the Religious Education Curriculum Directory we are seeking the views of teachers. This will be done in two stages. The first stage is to ask schools to complete a questionnaire. The questionnaire can be completed using this link:
The deadline for questionnaire submissions is 24th May 2019.
The second stage is to invite teachers to a face to face consultation as part of the CREDO professional development days in the summer. The dates and venues for these are as follows:
Saturday 22 June, St Mary’s University, Twickenham
Tuesday 25 June, Leeds Trinity University
Wednesday 26 June, Liverpool Hope University
Wednesday 3 July, Newman University, Birmingham
To see full details for each of these days and to book a place please use the links below:
For Saturday 22 June at St Mary’s, click here:
For Tuesday 25 June at Leeds Trinity, click here:
For Wednesday 26 June at Liverpool Hope, click here:
For Wednesday 3 July at Newman, click here:
The revised edition of the Religious Education Curriculum Directory has a planned publication date of September 2020.
Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service commented: “We welcome this commitment by the Government to improve Relationships and Sex Education in all schools.
“Catholic education is centred on the formation of the whole child and age appropriate RSE is an essential part of this. It is essential for creating well rounded young people, for equipping students to make good life choices, and for keeping our children safe.
“As such, the Catholic schools’ sector is the only one in the country to have a comprehensive and holistic RSE curriculum for ages 3-19. The proposals announced by the Government today are compatible with the Catholic model curriculum.
“In fact, the Government’s own statutory guidance recognises the Catholic RSE curriculum as an excellent example for schools to use and is one of the few external organisations the guidance referenced as best practice examples.
“The Catholic Church teaches that parents are the prime educators of their children and we are pleased to see the Government sharing this fundamental principle.”
A spokesperson for the Catholic Education Service commented: “As a leading provider of Religious Education, we welcome the laudable efforts of the Commission to improve the quality of RE in all schools. However, for this noble aim to be achieved, there needs to be consensus among the RE community on what high quality RE looks like. Disappointingly, this report fails to produce such a consensus.
“Any attempt to improve the quality of RE in all schools must be applauded and we are committed to working with the RE community to achieve this. However, this report is not so much an attempt to improve RE as to fundamentally change its character. The proposed name change to include ‘worldviews’ means that the scope of the subject is now so wide and nondescript that it would potentially lose all academic value and integrity. As we have always maintained, the quality of Religious Education is not improved by teaching less religion.
“RE in Catholic schools is academically rigorous, rooted in the 2000-year-old theological tradition of the Catholic Church, and inspired by the greatest thinkers, from the theology of St Thomas Aquinas to the humanism of St Thomas More. This is why at GCSE, pupils in Catholic schools account for a fifth of all entrants and continually outperform the national average.
“The Catholic Church will always welcome any move to improve the quality RE, our praise of the new, more academically rigorous GCSE is proof of that. Moreover, the Commission’s recommendation for the DfE to review the impact of excluding RE from the Ebacc is something we wholeheartedly agree with.
“The quality of RE in all schools needs to be improved and there are many ways this can be achieved. Including it as an Ebacc subject is one, succumbing to this contentious redefinition of Religious Education is not.”
Notes to Editors
The Catholic schools sector account for a fifth of all GCSE RE entrants and consistently outperform the national average.
10% of the curriculum in Catholic schools is dedicated to the teaching of RE.
The RE curriculum in Catholic schools is stipulated by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales and is set out in their Religious Education Curriculum Directory.
Religious Education in Catholic schools draws predominantly on the academic discipline of theology, and is essentially a school level version of the theological discipline taught in most universities. In non-denominational school contexts the approach to RE is largely sociological.
Catholic RE is pluralistic and covers the teaching of all the world’s major religions as well as concepts such as atheism and humanism