Saturday, 14 February 2009

The future of Catholic education?

The Catholic Church has been regularly criticized for its lukewarm attitude to integrated education. In particular, the Church authorities have always made clear their opposition to transformation, that is, the right in legislation for parents to vote to change a school to integrated status. In consequence only controlled schools have transformed since 1989. The argument the Catholic authorities have always advanced against transformation is that a school belongs to a community, not to a particular group of parents, and that therefore it is wrong for the interests of a particular group to over-ride the interests of a wider community. Now, whether you accept this argument or not, it suddenly seems weaker. In the impasse over the future of academic selection some Catholic grammar schools have announced their intention to continue selecting on the basis of tests and many more are expected to follow. This is despite the clear acceptance by the Catholic Bishops of the need for an end to academic selection at 11 on social justice grounds. In an attempt to restore some coherence to the Catholic sector, the Bishops have asked a group of secondary and grammar principals to seek agreement on a way forward. If they fail and some or most of the Catholic grammar schools go their own way, then we may be witnessing the end of the Catholic education system in any meaningful sense of the term.

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