Catholic clergy at bay over future schools control

Since we’re on about the Church, in Northern Ireland the decision to make the new Education and Skills Authority (after I hope only a temporary hiccup) the general school employer, will further erode the role of the Catholic clergy, already much less than in the Republic, as far as I can make out. Did it happen when nobody was looking? Might the secular trend advance even further if as a solution to the school transfer impasse, choice at 14 was to replace selection at 11? I ask this without malice. The Church, clerical and laity did a good job holding the ring for civilisation during the Troubles but now, we’re entering a new world. Remember the old techs , the sector that was squeezed in the tripartite grammar, technical and intermediate 1948 settlement and then morphed into something else? In England if the Tories win, techs are set for a comeback sponsored by the former Ed Sec Ken Baker. In NI, the techs were religion- blind and that unfortunately hampered their development. But not so today. Imagine a string of specialist post-14 schools including techs, with open teacher recruitment, planned for local economic, social and intellectual needs, no money diverted for religious apartheid. The Church in its various forms could keep them to 14. The replacement of CCMS by ESA as the employer happened with hardly a peep from the laity, right? So the clergy are nervous. An unknown vista stretches before them, in itself a challenge to influence and authority some believe has virtually gone anyway. As a result of local area planning, pressure will surely come before long to extend fair employment to the school system, the glaring omission in a community divided over equality. The normally mild-mannered Cardinal Brady, clearly deeply worried that the “Catholic ethos” will be diluted isn’t giving up without a fight.. The UUs are just as worried. Clearly ESA has much to commend it.
Extr from Cardinal Brady homily

“it is imperative that we work to ensure the legislation for the new Education and Skills Authority does not dilute the hard won rights of Catholics and others in this area. I want to make it clear that the Trustees have not agreed to or signed off on any aspect of the proposed legislation for the ESA. We remain very concerned about certain aspects of the draft legislation, especially in relation to the employment of staff and the proposals for area based planning. We will continue to scrutinise the proposals and test them against the rights of every parents to have their child brought up in acc ordance with their religious and philosophical convictions, a right recognised and protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The Cardinal’s positioning is not without merit. The Church is the people and the people may well want to preserve the “ethos” – i.e. catholic teachers for catholic pupils. Perhaps local votes could decide.

Entry is open to all, whether or not Protestants take advantage of it.

And the clergy are militantly against 11 plus selection, believing presumably they have the enumbers wirth them. The cardinal has delivered a belt of the crozier to those Catholic grammars for going it alone – ” a fundamental value of Catholic education is potentially undermined.”

So in education, the Church is far from giving up the ghost.

  • Count me out on any rant about denominational involvement in education: I know on that topic I’m not likely to be wholly rational.

    More significant is the whole business of technical education: the one great failure of the ’44 Act.

    Though, of course, it went back well before then. The UK has singularly failed (and continues to do so) in technical and vocational education. And I’m not signing up to anything with Ken Baker in the front spot: he should be cashiered for what he did with the National Curriculum.

    ‘Nuff said.

    All that apart, this is where I came on board at Slugger, two years gone.

    Before this thread gets going, let me remind the huddled masses of Sluggerdom that it was a good Dublin lad who got it bang to rights, all the way back to 1903. Cue Act II of Man and Superman:

    TANNER: … this chap [indicating his chauffeur, “Enry” Straker] has been educated. What’s more, he knows that we havn’t. What was that Board School of yours, Straker?
    Sherbrooke Road.
    Sherbrooke Road! Would any of us say Rugby! Harrow! Eton! in that tone of intellectual snobbery? Sherbrooke Road is a place where boys learn something: Eton is a boy farm where we are sent because we are nuisances at home, and because in after life, whenever a Duke is mentioned, we can claim him as an old school-fellow.
    You dont know nothing about it, Mr Tanner. It’s not the Board School that does it: it’s the Polytechnic.
    His university, Octavius. Not Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Dublin, or Glasgow. Not even those Non-conformist holes in Wales. No, Tavy. Regent Street! Chelsea! the Borough!—I dont know half their confounded names: these are his universities, not mere shops for selling class limitations like ours. You despise Oxford, Enry, dont you?
    No, I don’t. Very nice sort of place, Oxford, I should think, for people that like that sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there. In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like. See?

    That nailed ’em then. It’s still valid now: consider the disaster that is London Metropolitan University (once, almost respectably, the Polytechnic of North London).

  • Pete Baker


    “Did it happen when nobody was looking?”

    Not quite.

    The Cardinal was expressing those same concerns in March of this year.

  • willis

    Thanks for that Malcolm.

    I see that my current obsession has reared its head again

    The governors: Links with City of London

    *London Met’s board of governors, which is being asked to stand down, has 15 members and contains movers and shakers of the City of London Corporation, including one key member who has spent his life in accountancy. Sir Michael Snyder, a former chairman of the university’s audit committee, the Corporation’s policy and resources committee and its finance committee, is a senior partner of the accountancy firm Kingston Smith.

  • steve white

    you’re welcoming corporate schools?

    could easily be another Academys fiasco with rich baptists nutcases throwing money at councils to capture their students.

  • OC

    Every parent should have the right to have their child educated in a religious denomination school – as long as they pay for it themselves!

  • Garza

    True OC. The time of state funded religious schools has to be ended in this country. Catholic and protestant schools should be made to go private or go secular.

  • Seymour Major

    Jim Allister made a point that the introduction of the ESA was part of the compromise in negotiations between the DUP and Sinn Fein which got the Executive up and running following the 5 months when there were no executive meetings.

    Allister’s contention was that as a result of the acceptance of the ESA, the revised curriculum had been accepted, which has meant that primary schools could refuse to prepare children for Grammar school.

    Since I have not had time to spend researching the link between the ESA and the revised curriculum, I will leave it to commenters who are experts in Education to explain whether or not the DUP has a case to answer

  • willis

    From Jim’s press release

    “Parents who wish their children to attend grammar schools should be particularly alarmed, because under the revised curriculum primary schools will refuse to prepare pupils for grammar school. It is clear that the Revised Curriculum and the type of instruction required for success in grammar school tests are incompatible. For example, the Revised Curriculum focuses on cross-curricular skills while traditional teaching focuses on knowledge in individual disciplines.”

    Just consider that final sentence in all its glory and answer this question.

    If basic education is about the 3Rs, in itself a joke because of the necessary mis-spelling, What is the difference between Reading, (W)riting, and (A)rithnetic and Literacy and Numeracy?

    Except that these days you can’t have a joke about Primary Education.

  • willis


    I saw the typo!

  • Ms Wiz

    How the Catholic Church are still entrusted with the education of children in Ireland I’ll never know.

  • kensei


    Every parent should have the right to have their child educated in a religious denomination school – as long as they pay for it themselves!

    Do they get a tax rebate then?

    Pluralism in education is a plus. Different sectors should be supported relative to demand.

  • Democratic

    “the people may well want to preserve the “ethos” – i.e. catholic teachers for catholic pupils. Perhaps local votes could decide.

    Entry is open to all, whether or not Protestants take advantage of it.”

    Does anyone else find the logic in this section unconvincing?

  • Brian Walker

    kesnei, That’s a crucial point. But I suggest it’s worth debating whether faith schools inhibit area planning for the best possible mix of specialist schools, particularly if a 14+ strategy is adopted. And wouldn’t open teachers’ recruitment be a good thing? I admit I hanker after a form of integration that still protects diversity. I think we’ll get there in the end, but some way well ahead. The Catholic ethos could be protected by a Mater hospital type understanding and by catchment area. I was once asked if I wouidl object if my children were taught a Christian brother ( in the days when they were still around). The only reasonable answer is no, provided they follow the agreed syllabus, which of course Catholic schools do. If enough parents still support school governance with a specific instiutional Church input,they must and will have it. To be fair, the outgoing CCMS was educationally forward-looking. There’s no reason to suppose its successor trustees’ support body will be any different. But I’d like to rattle a few cages and see what comes up.

  • OC

    “Do they get a tax rebate then?”

    In the USA, the answer is, “No.”

    There is currently a political battle to begin drifting into publicly funded “private” schools, but even in this event, it would probably favour secular schools over ones that are overseen by religious groups.

    “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson