Saturday, September 08, 2007

Catholic bishops panicking over growing opposition to "faith schools"

source: NSS Newsline September 7th 2007

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales – under pressure from opponents of "faith schools" – have taken the unusual step of sending a letter to all their parishes defending and justifying the continuation of Catholic schools.

The bishops emphasise the "value" of a schooling with a "religious character" and in their letter said: "Recent and current calls from some for the abolition of faith schools, or their curtailment, fail to take account of this rich history of co-operation between Church and State which has been to the mutual benefit of both. They also fail to take account of the current achievements of our schools. Independent research and inspection conducted by the Governments own offices demonstrate how well our schools perform, academically and in moral and social education; that they are catering for as wide a range of pupils as any other group of schools, whether the measure be ability, poverty or ethnic identity. They also welcome pupils from the wider community, beyond the Catholic Church, wherever there are places available."

The bishops say that the schools are underpinned by a vision of education "based on the truth revealed by God about ourselves, our life together in community and our ultimate destiny with God. This gives rise to an educational endeavour centred on the person of Jesus Christ, who is our Way, Truth and Life. Over a long period of time, this approach to education has proved to be one that prepares children and young people well for whatever roles they take on in society or public life, as well as for their personal and family lives. The commitment of the Catholic Church to inter-faith dialogue and to working with other Christians provides a further basis for young peoples contribution to peaceful social cohesion. At times, this vision of education stands in contrast to a secular model of education, based on the values of the prevailing culture, which are often far from clear and not always shared."

The bishops made no bones about it that: "Schooling has been, and remains, an important part of the mission of the Church. The aims of our schools are to help everyone within the school community to grow in faith; to make the most of every ability they have been given; to achieve academic excellence and to prepare well for adult life in a modern and diverse society. These tasks are, of course, carried out in close cooperation with local and national government."

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "If ever evidence were needed to prove that 'Catholic education' is primarily about indoctrination, this statement provides it. It is disgraceful that the Catholic Church can be permitted to use tax-payers' money to so blatantly drum their dubious doctrines into children's heads. However, this letter also indicates that the Church is worried about the growing opposition to religious schools and particularly their divisive influence."

And the "fairness" of Catholic schools' selection criteria is causing ructions in Ireland, where 93% of schools are under Catholic control. This is the kind of injustice that "faith schools" will eventually lead to in Britain, too: Catholic education race row brewing and Black Children Left Out of Irish Schools.

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