Catholic values make for a sound schooling

25th October 1996 at 01:00
Ian Feely's article, "Teach what he preaches" (TES, October 11), was doubtless intended to be fairly provocative. There is clearly truth in his assertion that the Catholic church encompasses within its ranks those who do not always agree with all aspects of the church's teaching. There are Catholics who would like to see priests being allowed to marry and women being eligible for ordination. It is also fair to state that the Bishop Wright situation has prompted a good deal of discussion on the issue of celibacy.

However, the article is both inaccurate and misleading with regard to a number of his comments about Catholic schools. I am not aware of any great body of evidence to support the claim that "there has been a reactionary backlash throughout Catholic schools in the last decade". I would certainly take issue with the allegation that Section 13 inspectors have been going round operating as "Catholic police" in some sort of sinister Orwellian scenario. I have experienced two inspections by the Office for Standards in Education in two different dioceses. In neither case did the Section 13 team "police Catholicism".

What has happened over the past decade is that Catholic schools have quite rightly focused more on their own distinctiveness. Catholic schools are different - a difference aptly summed up by the very recent statement from the Bishops of England and Wales who have stated: "Catholic education aims to offer young people the experience of life in a community founded on Gospel values. In religious education in particular, the Church aims to transmit to them the Catholic faith. Both through religious education and in the general life of the school, young people are prepared to serve as witnesses to moral and spiritual values in the wider world."

Accordingly, it is only right that the mission statement of a Catholic school should seek to highlight this distinction. It seems odd to regard this as something untoward. Equally perplexing is Ian Feely's unhappiness with the notion of secondary religious education being taught by specialists. In secondary schools, it is common practice to have specialists. Surely this holds good for RE as much as for subjects such as English, mathematics and science?

The article mentions the Office for Standards in Education several times. An analysis of OFSTED reports clearly indicates that Catholic schools, both primary and secondary, generally perform above the average at all key stages. The high-quality education offered by Catholic schools is being recognised more and more by parents. An increasing number of parents who are not Catholic strive to find a place for their children in a Catholic school.

Ian Feely's article does not faithfully represent the reality of Catholic education. While not claiming that the picture is perfect, the impression given by his article does a disservice to the success being achieved by Catholic schools the length and breadth of the country.

J HUGHES Headteacher The English Martyrs School Catcote Road Hartlepool

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