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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Bishop O'Donoghue stands up to the school bullies

See John Smeaton's post today (Bishop stands up under fire) for a summary of Bishop O'Donoghue's treatment at the hands of the House of Commons Select Committee for Children, Schools and Families.

The Committee Chairman, Barry "faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith" Sheerman took the opportunity in the course of questioning to refer contemptuously to Pope Benedict as the "present occupant of the Vatican"

This morning was an "oral Evidence Session" concerning Diversity of School Provision: Faith Schools. The stated purpose of the meeting of this committee which was established less than five months ago was to examine faith schools and their place within the school system. Suddenly there is talk all over the place about "faith schools" (ours are Church schools, actually) choosing pupils on the basis of social status or academic ability. This is nonsense: those of our schools that are over-subscribed have quite a hard time applying their admissions criteria fairly and are under constant scrutiny from appeal hearings and complaints to the ombudsman. Of course they make mistakes from time to time but not through any attempt to select by ability.

In fact, most dioceses long ago went in hook line and sinker for the comprehensive system, changing many excellent Catholic grammar schools in the process. Some of us might debate the wisdom of that policy but it certainly belies any accusation of social or academic selection.

This latest flurry of concern about selection is simply a convenient excuse for an attack on the Church's role in education. Congratulations to Bishop O'Donoghue for standing up against it and for asserting the right of Catholic schools not to support anti-life charities.

The Lancaster diocese policy document Fit for Mission - schools is now available from the CTS (80pp, A4, £6.95)
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