HAPPY TO WELCOME CHILDREN FROM ALL BACKGROUNDS
“It is a key part of the Church’s mission to offer good quality education as part of our contribution to society as a whole.
Catholic schools are always happy to welcome children from all backgrounds whose parents seek a Catholic education for them, where there are sufficient places to meet this demand. In cases of oversubscription, priority is given to Catholic pupils.
The Catholic Church was the original provider of education in this country. From the Middle Ages onwards, the Church took responsibility for teaching children. Central to this work has always been our dedication to providing education for the poorest in society. Following Catholic emancipation in the 19th century, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales prioritised the building of schools before the building of churches. Then, as now, the Church’s commitment to education was strong.
HELPING TO GIVE CHILDREN A GOOD START IN LIFE
As time went on, of course, the Church ceased to be the only provider of schools in this country as state-funded education for all became available. So why have we continued to be involved? We consider education to be crucially important as a means of forming the whole person intellectually, morally and socially and we want to help to give children as good a start in life as we can. Catholic schools strive to offer children a well-rounded education, providing them with a moral basis from which they are free to make their own decisions.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS OUTPERFORM THE NATIONAL AVERAGE
And we all know that Catholic schools have long been a success story. Ofsted rate them more highly in terms of their overall effectiveness than other schools nationally, (74 per cent of Catholic primary schools are judged good or outstanding by Ofsted compared to 66 per cent nationally), and they also achieve higher examination results (at GCSE, Catholic schools outperform the national average by six). Of course, the immeasurable benefit of a Catholic education is that students are encouraged to engage with the wider community and to make a positive contribution to society as a whole.
FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM CATHOLICS UP AND DOWN THE COUNTRY
The current government, like previous governments, recognises the value that a Catholic education offers young people, which is why the state continues to fund many of the costs associated with Catholic schools. But the Catholic Church doesn’t just expect handouts. We own the land on which most of our schools are built. This is no small financial contribution, and it has been made over a long period of time: it is an arrangement that has been in place since the 1944 Education Act when Catholic schools became partners with the state provision of education. The financial contribution made by the Church comes from Catholics up and down the country, who not only pay their taxes, but who also give generously to the Church, thus helping to fund Catholic schools.
OUR SCHOOLS ARE MORE ETHNICALLY DIVERSE
Catholic schools are inclusive. Our schools are more ethnically diverse than schools nationally (31.2 per cent of students in Catholic secondary schools come from ethnic groups other than the ‘White British’ category, compared to only 26.5 per cent in secondary schools nationally). Recently published data also showed that Catholic schools have a higher proportion of students from the most deprived areas compared to schools nationally. Catholic schools are rated more highly by Ofsted when it comes to their commitment to community cohesion than other schools are. Visit your local Catholic school and you’re unlikely to find it full of middle-class children with pushy parents.
Central to this is the Catholic ethos and distinctive nature of our schools. This is maintained, in part, by Catholic children having priority in cases of oversubscription, defined by local bishops according to local circumstances. Steps are taken to ensure that the system meets the needs of genuine applicants rather than those parents who might try to ‘play the system’.
A MAJOR CONTRIBUTION TO BRITISH SOCIETY
Interestingly, in England around a quarter of pupils in Catholic schools are not Catholics and in Wales the figure is a third.
As Baroness Warsi recognised in a speech on this subject, the provision of education is a major part of the Catholic Church’s contribution to British society, part of a centuries-old tradition. We are proud to offer a well-rounded, high-quality education to almost 800,000 pupils and students in England and Wales: Catholics, members of other faiths and none.”
– This article by Maeve McCormack, formerly of the Catholic Education Service, was published in “The Catholic Universe” issue Sunday 21st July, 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com (external link)