CES News (112)
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
Today the Catholic Education Service (CES) welcomed the OFSTED review of Pupil Premiums as an opportunity for the Government to ensure disadvantaged children receive the additional support.
Currently Pupil Premiums are calculated using the number of children receiving Free School Meals. Annual census data from Catholic schools in England show that the number of children receiving Free School Meals does not reflect the proportion of children from deprived areas highlighted by the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI).
IDACI data provided by the Department for Education highlights that despite a lower than average take-up of Free School Meals in Catholic schools, 19% of Catholic Pupil (compared with 14% nationally) come from the most deprived 10% of areas. Likewise the data shows that Catholic schools have consistently smaller proportions of pupils from least deprived areas.
The CES is keen to promote a pupil premium calculated from a number of indicators which take into consideration addition indicators including Free Schools Meals and IDACI.
Greg Pope, Deputy Director of CES said “We support the government’s aim to ensure that funding for children from disadvantaged families is available to support them in their education. This review provides the Department for Education with the opportunity to evaluate how Pupil Premiums are calculated to ensure that all children from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive this support. A basket of indicators is preferable as our evidence highlights that there are many children from deprived areas who, for whatever reason, do not take up Free School Meals.”
Responding to Michael Gove’s education reforms, the Catholic Education Service (CES) has called for Religious Education (RE) to remain a priority in schools.
The reforms suggest that greater focus is required in ‘the core academic subjects of English, mathematics, sciences, history, geography and languages.’ The CES will continue to work with the Department for Education to ensure RE is not excluded from this new model, and that standards and rigour applied to examinations in core subjects will be extended to RE.
Father Tim Gardner OP, CES’s RE advisor said “RE lies at the heart of the curriculum in Catholic schools, and is an essential part of the curriculum in all schools. We will work with the Government and other faith groups to ensure that good quality RE remains a priority. We agree that the current RE GCSE requires reform to raise academic standards and the EBacc offers us the opportunity to ensure that RE is a rigorous and academic subject which stimulates and enriches children’s education. We will continue to promote RE as a core academic subject, which should take its rightful place among other humanities such as History and Geography.”
The Department for Education’s consultation on “Reforming Key Stage 4 Qualifications” offers the CES and other education stakeholders the opportunity to respond to the Government’s proposals.
“Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary”. This quote, attributed to St Francis of Assisi, sounds like a rebuke to Church press officers everywhere – how are we supposed to preach the Gospel if we can’t issue a press release? I’m not sure that the BBC would be terribly happy if next time they asked us for a comment we had to point out that we couldn’t say anything, because we preach the Gospel without words. Only we couldn’t even say that, because in doing so, we’d have to use words. It looks like we have an impossible task!
In our two-form entry Catholic primary school just near Heathrow there are 472 children on roll including the 52 who come part-time to our Nursery. They are all baptised Catholics and they all live in the same parish. These 472 children speak a total of 43 languages between them. When OFSTED came to our school in 2002 only 6% of the school roll spoke English as an additional language. When they came back 5 years later the figure had risen to 43%. It is now over 60% for the school as a whole and amongst our younger children the figure is nearer 80%.
The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, is keen that all schools an England should become Academies as soon as possible. Academy status, he argues, will give schools more freedom and autonomy to make their own educational decisions in pursuit of higher standards and provide more funding to achieve those standards. For some existing schools ‘in difficulty’ it will provide ‘new start’ opportunities.
Religious Education has been much in the news in the last year. The Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP, was strenuously lobbied in the hope that he might reverse his decision to exclude RE from the ‘E-Bac’ (the English Baccalaureate — a collection of core GCSE subjects favoured by the Government), but to no avail. Yet in England and Wales it remains a statutory subject which must be studied by all registered pupils until the age of 18. However, the quality of RE in schools varies considerably, as does its content, and it is true to say that most RE teachers are fearful that its exclusion from the E-Bac will see a decline in the number of pupils entered for public examinations in the subject. The situation is more hopeful in Catholic schools where RE is regarded as the core of the whole curriculum and must be allotted 10% of the time available for teaching.