The Pope calls for teachers to be given a pay rise

Eleanor Busby

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The Pope has called again for teachers to be better paid and for governments to take more interest in education.

The Pontiff said that educators were "among the worst-paid workers" during a Vatican conference on Christian education.

He concluded that this meant that "the state simply has no interest".

"If it did, things wouldn't go that way," Pope Francis said in comments reported by the Catholic News Service. "The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths."

The issue of teacher pay is clearly a priority for the Pope. He first stated his concerns in March, describing it as an "injustice" that teachers are paid so poorly.

His most recent comments on education also included a warning against selection in schools. The Pope called on Catholic educators to overcome a tendency towards being too selective.

He said they must work to restore the broken "educational alliance" between families, schools and society. Currently there was a serious situation with a desire to only educate "supermen", selected on the basis of intelligence or wealth.

"This is a shameful global reality," Pope Francis said. "It is a reality that leads us towards a human selectivity that, instead of bringing people together, it distances them; it distances the rich from the poor; it distances one culture from another."

"There is always the ghost of money – always. It seems that only those people or persons who are at a certain level or have a certain capacity have the right to an education," the former teacher said.

Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales, said: “The Holy Father is absolutely right in his call for prioritising education for poor and disadvantaged children.

"All Catholic schools have a preferential option for the poor – this is why our schools have more than the national average of pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”

In England, one of the country's oldest state funded Catholic schools has recently been at the centre of a controversy over alleged back-door selection.

The London Oratory School, attended by former prime minister Tony Blair's children, was ordered to change its admission policy last year after the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) concluded that the school's policies had the effect of "discriminating against pupils on their ethnicity and socio-economic background".

But in April, the school won a legal challenge against the OSA's findings that its admissions criteria unfairly disadvantaged poorer children. Following a hearing, Mr Justice Cobb announced his decision to quash some of the decisions but upheld others.

The High Court judge agreed with the OSA that it was not permissable to include “Catholic service” as one of the oversubscription criteria. This could include singing in the choir, flower arranging or carrying out voluntary work.

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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