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Catholics open fire on league tables

The Catholic Church has published a scathing attack on crude league tables and the competitive ethos of recent education policy which, it says, are unjust, irrational, demoralising and contrary to the spirit of the Gospels.

In a plea for community values which will delight the new Labour administration, the Catholic Church argues that all schools, whether they are religious or not, have a moral responsibility towards the welfare of their neighbours.

The new Education and Employment Secretary, David Blunkett, has already promised to reunite "a divided education service which sets school against school".

The new statement from the Church, The Common Good in Education, says: "It is increasingly obvious that those most likely to suffer from unrestricted market forces in education are the poor, vulnerable, powerless and defenceless. " This is an extension of the Church's controversial pre-election statement, The Common Good.

"League tables take no account of the nature of the intake of schools, " says the new publication, produced by the Bishops' Catholic Education Service. "The lack of recognition of the value-added factor is unjust and demoralising. It makes parents and students feel that failure in academic terms means that they have little or no value as people. This is both contrary to the Gospel and to any rational idea of what a human being really is."

The main Christian denominations have become increasingly vocal on education and what they believe to be a drift towards utilitarianism. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently attacked the economic emphasis put on education.

The calls for a return to consensus politics from such influential voices will be very welcome to the new regime. Labour will be doubly pleased to have support from the Catholic Church which has in recent years been highly suspicious of left-wing hostility towards denominational schooling.

However, Labour is also aware that it could itself be open to criticism for advocating the use of league tables and national targets, and for the limited ambition of its spending programme. It has promised that schools in Education Action Zones will get additional support. The zones have not yet been declared but they will be concentrated in areas of urban deprivation.

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