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Lessons to keep the faith

CATHOLIC schools in Birmingham have drawn up pledges to ensure that pupils' education is in line with the teachings of their faith.

The Birmingham Catholic Secondary Guarantee, the first of its kind in the country, sets out what young people can expect to learn as they progress through school.

The targets include a promise that they will pray together every day, attend Mass regularly and celebrate the Church's holy days. There will also be opportunities in school for them to go to Confession.

By 14, they will have taken part in a day of prayer or reflection, and in a residential retreat by 16. By the time they do their A-levels, they will have been on a pilgrimage.

The guarantee also stresses personal, social and physical development. Youngsters will be expected to monitor their own health, fitness and well-being, and will have been taught to promote racial and sexual harmony, tolerance and justice.

Understanding of right and wrong, and responsibility for themselves, others and "the whole of creation" feature prominently.

Jim Foley, the head of St Thomas Aquinas RC School, and the Church schools' representative on Birmingham's Secondary Forum, said it was the first time in almost 150 years that Catholic schools would be "crystal clear" about what was expected of them.

Catholic schools were created following a meeting of the Bishops of England and Wales in Birmingham in 1852, when they pledged to make "sufficient provision for the education" of all Catholic children.

Mr Foley said: "What we, in Catholic education, have not been very clear about is the specifics of what it is we do.

"A lot of assumptions have been made about what Catholic schools are all about but in reality this can vary from one school to another. It has never been made crystal clear to everyone.

"This document might seem banal to Catholics and those with experience of a church education, but there are also many non-Catholics who send their children to our schools so it helps them to know what to expect."

Dorothy Lepkowska

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