Understanding rejection

21st April 2006 at 01:00
I can only assume that Brian Toner was stuck for a topic last week but, in choosing to write about the Roman Catholic Church's approval of teachers, he betrays a superficial understanding not only of the issues but also of relating the variety of human qualities and character to the demands of a variety of teaching posts.

He asserts that "when teachers are rejected for a post in a Catholic school, they are insulted and confused". How did he handle a teacher whom he rejected for a promoted post in his school? One hopes he helped them overcome any feelings of rejection by focusing on the requirements for the post rather than their personal circumstances.

Would he appoint anyone who applied for a post in his school without some judgment as to their fitness to be a teacher? Would he suggest that there is to be no discernment as to the qualities necessary for teaching in a Catholic school?

He then suggests that "the rate of rejection" is such that it impinges on the staffing of a school. The opposite is, in fact, the case; the norm is that many teachers who are not Catholics are teaching in Catholic schools and many in promoted posts. In fact, some teachers who are not Catholics seek out posts in Catholic schools.

But there is a caveat: poor leadership in some schools can deter good teachers and it can be difficult to attract Catholic teachers to such schools.

Mr Toner is similarly simplistic when he refers to an approval system which considers only a teacher's religious affiliation and a poorer candidate is appointed. He must have made decisions involving many factors but where one factor has a major significance.

In Catholic secondary schools, there are many teachers who are not Catholics. In primary schools, the class teacher is responsible for religious education as well as being the person who shares his or her faith with the children. I am sure Mr Toner has knowledge of both situations.

Finally, Mr Toner has either not read the McNab judgment or misunderstands it. It is not about approval. The judgment refers to the fact that the law on approval of all teachers was not implemented in parts of the west of Scotland and they ran a parallel system of "ring-fenced posts". Some of my more experienced colleagues as church representatives to education authorities have been cautioning them about it for years. But maybe they thought they knew best in the west.

The judgment held that all applicants for teaching posts in Catholic schools require to be approved by the Church. Mr Toner is free to raise the issues involved in such discernment, but would he please do so in terms of the requirements of the post and the context surrounding every appointment to a teaching post. The leadership to which he aspires requires such maturity.

Fr Ken McCaffrey RE adviser Diocese of Dunkeld

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