Lured by the crock of gold

27th November 1998 at 00:00
YOUR FRONT-page story of November 6 on the somewhat abrasive re-entry of Catholic GM schools into the voluntary-aided sector raises certain questions concerning the whole grant-maintained experiment.

When the carrot of GM status was dangled in front of these schools they naturally looked to their bishops for guidance. Clearly if many of these were indeed hostile to the move it is surprising that 150 proceeded.

In reality the advice often amounted to "make up your own mind". Many schools decided to go along this path clearly tempted by the crock of gold at the end of it. However the Church saved considerable sums of money as the burden of the 15 per cent was removed from them.

On reflection the principles of unity and justice were clearly not given due weight. Catholic GM schools were clearly advantaged over their voluntary-aided neighbours and considerable stress was placed on the unity of the system.

As a Scot I am proud once again to reflect on the wisdom of those who negotiated the settlement north of the border where total parity of treatment was accepted. This allied to cultural differences ensured that opting out was never a serious temptation north of the border.

Finally if the bishops are to insist on such stringent criteria for Catholicity they might well consider whether in justice independent schools with the Catholic title ought to be faced with a similar health test.

John O'Neill 39 Keats Close Cowplain Hants

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