Catholic Education

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the annual meeting of the Catholic Independent Schools Conference (CISC). These are always hugely enjoyable and worthwhile events. The conference brings together all the heads of the leading Catholic schools in this country and, increasingly, heads from overseas as well. This year we met in Weybridge and were addressed by the head of St George’s College there, a highly successful school that combines an impressive Catholic ethos with outstanding academic results. The dedication, good humour and professionalism of the heads I spoke to was evident and all were proudly committed to the sector they represent. Like St Martha’s, many of these schools have a long and distinguished history. Often founded by religious orders, they are now run by lay heads and governors who identify strongly with the ethos they have inherited. A link to the CISC website can be found here: www.cisc.uk.net.

Why do parents choose Catholic schools? It is clear that the sector is thriving and that large numbers of parents who are not Catholics themselves are attracted by the education they provide. There seems to be a recognition that children do well in schools that offer a broad and balanced education, combining a caring and nurturing ethos with academic rigour and a strong ethical and spiritual underpinning. This is precisely the mix that Catholic schools provide, not just to Catholics but to all who reject a utilitarian and overly narrow approach to education. A leaflet produced by CISC called ‘Why Catholic Schools?’ puts it like this: ‘Catholic schools celebrate achievement and respect individuality. They value discipline, high standards, justice and whole-hearted dedication. They recognise the precious responsibility entrusted to them by parents.’ A copy of this leaflet can be found on our website.

This is all a far cry from the days when Catholic independent schools were for Catholics only. Our ethos now is to embrace those of all faiths and none, providing an excellent education underpinned by values that enable children to flourish. Seeing each person as a gifted human being, not as simply a cog in the educational machine, is central to this. At the end of last term we had our Year 9’s GCSE information evening and it was heartening to see so many pupils enthused by what they are studying and the thought of choosing three optional subjects to take to GCSE. Many of them will do this while enjoying a variety of other interests in the school, pursued within the context of the caring and outward-facing environment that the school provides. It is this that defines our ethos, not something manufactured for the sake of an inspection report but a living reality, embraced by the school’s staff and springing directly from our founders’ vision.

A Catholic school, by its very nature, will always look to the wider world. We have also just been discussing the charities that will be the focus of the school’s fund-raising this year to ensure that a balance of local and international causes is represented. Several of these raise money for disadvantaged children around the world and highlight for our pupils the acute imbalances that continue to exist in our globalised society.

28/01/2015 Comments (0)

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