A Shared Future
Article Index
A Shared Future
Page 2
Page 3

Submission to the Minister with responsibility for Education,
Ms Angela Smith MP,
from Trustees of all Catholic-managed schools in Northern Ireland
6th March 2006
________________________________________
1. The Trustees hold these schools in trust for the Catholic community which has made huge sacrifices over many generations since the foundation of the State. There is full agreement between all Trustees, CCMS and the Voluntary Grammar Principals on the way forward.

2. Catholic schools in Northern Ireland offer an explicitly faith-based vision, a model of education in demand across the world and promoted in England by the Westminster Government.

3. The Catholic-managed sector is the largest single provider of education in Northern Ireland and the preferred option for a very large number of parents. Catholic managed schools currently educate 45% of all children in Northern Ireland. (1)

4. The social and cognitive outcomes in these schools have been impressive, despite often adverse circumstances. Despite appreciably higher levels of Free School Meal Entitlement (2), Catholic schools have produced striking results. (3) It is worth noting that the least successful sector is the most controlled sector.


5. The Trustees are committed to ensuring that all these schools play a full part in promoting reconciliation and a shared future. (Cf. Building Peace, Shaping the Future, Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland, 2001)

6. The Trustees have long been engaged in promoting a particular philosophy of education (Cf. Proclaiming the Mission,, Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland, 2001) based on:
 a. The dignity of the individual;
 b. The primacy of rounded human formation where pupils’ multiple intelligences can bedeveloped, including emotional and spiritual intelligence;
 c. High expectations for all pupils;
 d. A commitment to social justice and to education as a moral enterprise, rather than to an educational model based on short-term or merely utilitarian principles;
 e. The key role of building educational communities as the locus for learning;
 f. Building identity, confidence, reconciliation and healthy communities in the wider society, and the involvement of the community in education;
 g. Maximum collaboration with all educational providers and stakeholders in creating a stable, cohesive and creative society;
 h. A coherent system of provision that ensures access to the highest quality of educational opportunities for all young people.
These are principles, widely acknowledged by educationalists around the world, to be core features in quality education.

7. The Catholic-managed sector – because of, and not despite, its ethos and resources of social capital – has made a huge contribution to the development of healthy individuals and communities.

8. The Trustees are determined to ensure the proposed current changes are implemented in such a way as to provide:
 i. An improved quality of educational outcomes across the board;
 j. Value for money and the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy.

IMPLICATIONS

1. The basis for change
 a.The Trustees recognise the need for a streamlined approach to educational management here. However - in line with the thinking of the current Westminster government - we are opposed to an excessively centralist approach and, in NI, argue for one single authority with maximum local autonomy for schools and their legal owners (the Trustees) and their Boards of Governors.
 b. The current proposals remain without much detail and we recognise that there willhave to be a process of consultation.

2. The Trustees’ requirements
  The Trustees wish to be able to make this unique contribution to creating a new society here, sharing the future, educating for a changing job market and based on healthy confident communities. However, they have major concerns in regard to fundamental principles.

a. If the Trustees are to maintain the distinctive characteristics and contribution of Catholic schools, Boards of Governors need to be the legal employing authority of staff. Catholic schools currently employ close to 10,000 teaching staff, plus many other non-teaching personnel. The proposed Education Authority may well have the statutory powers to manage and administer the employment process. The work of individual schools need not necessarily include the mundane, monthly procedures of the salaries function, if it is judged that centralisation of this task would result in significant savings and if it is true that recent advances in ICT would enable smooth operation of this task. However, Trustees believe that, if Governors do not have the key employment function, they will lose control of standards. And, if the Boards of Governors are to be the legal employing authority they will need support structures. (4)

b. The Trustees seek to offer, not merely education for Catholics, but a particular vision-driven type of education, accessible to all. If they are to continue to offer this particularly successful model in an increasingly fragmented and fraught society, they will need support structures in order to  focus Governors and staff on that vision and on the promotion of ethos. This social capital that they can bring is an important contribution to education here. The Board of Governors - drawn  largely from the wider school community, competent and skilled in the range of management  tasks, highly regarded by the wider school community - will be best placed to employ and  oversee the management of the teaching staff.  They will be people who really care about the  school and they will work together to do a worthwhile job for the local community.  There thus needs to be some structure to support and promote Governor training in more than their basic legal obligations.

c. The Trustees are the legal owners of a large number of schools.(5) Trustees should continue to be the primary planners of the Catholic School Estate with the provision that, where there are  competing interests, DE should take the lead. The Trustees have already indicated their intention to maximise the collaboration between all education sectors and providers in the interests of efficiency, effectiveness and social cohesion. However, they need to have a strategic planning role in the context of:
 i. The demographic decline
 ii. The Post-Primary Review
 iii. Rural schools
 iv. New developments.

3. Trustees are by far the largest single stakeholder in the NI Education Service and need to have a facility to articulate the views of the Catholic Sector in respect of policy and advocacy. This  involves the formulation of policy at micro and macro levels, providing leadership and direction, and seeking to influence the education agenda.

Essentially, the Trustees expect that they will continue to have access to a professional arm to support them in the exercise of these roles. This professional arm would be an advisory body with a statutory remit. Clearly, this will no longer be as large as the current CCMS. However, since there will no longer be substantive differences between the way in which the current maintained and grammar schools are managed, this professional arm would provide support for all Catholic-managed schools, and not just the schools currently supported by CCMS.

Conclusion:
It is possible to create a streamlined system of public administration which removes unnecessary bureaucracy, and which still allows decision-making to take place at relatively local levels, where vision, energy and social capital can be focused in the interests of both cognitive and social outcomes. The 'Single Authority’ model – where the Authority is also the employing, funding and planning body for all schools, and manager of one set of schools, presents a model of central control which threatens:
  Ethos
  Local autonomy, initiative and flexibility
  Capacity to plan.

Furthermore, only the Trustees, through the Boards of Governors, can determine what defines and provides the ethos of a Catholic school. Thus, if the Trustees are not able to exercise the level of responsibility, which is theirs as Trustees, then they will regard their right to provide a Catholic education sector as having been removed.

While the Trustees welcome many of the functions of the Single Authority as not only desirable but necessary, the Trustees are strongly opposed to granting to this body of those provisions which diminish, indeed undermine, the exercise of their Trustee rights. The Trustees can bring huge resources of vision, dedication and experience to the education sector and seek only to be helped to:
  offer their model of education as a contribution to the Common Good and as a service to local communities and the whole community;
  contribute to a genuinely pluralist system of education where the acknowledged strengths of vision-based education are available to those who wish to avail of it.
  provide a tried and tested model of faith-based education that has made – and can continue to make - a huge contribution to:
   o Building hope and high expectations for all;
   o Maintaining social cohesion and maximising social capital for individuals and communities;
   o Creating a shared future for all citizens here;
   o Building a society that is uniquely successful because of self-confidence, creativity and entrepreneurial skills.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.   Catholic Maintained  36.7% of total school-going populations
                                       28.14% of post primary population
       Catholic Grammar   8.28% of total school-going population
                                    18.28% of post-primary population
       Other Vol Grammar   6.63% of total school-going population
                                    13.42% of post-primary population
       GM Integrated         4.03% of total school going population
       Cont Integrated     1.23% of total school-going population
       Controlled sector  42.05% of total school-going population
Figures for School Year 2005/6. DE Statistical Press release 28 Feb 2006

2.  Free School Meal Entitlment
Primary:              Cath Maintained 24.6%
                           Irish Medium 35.4%
                           Controlled 15.4%
                           Cont Integrated 18.2%
                          GM Integrated 14.3%


Post-Primary:     Irish Medium 35.5%
                         Cath Maintained 34.4%
                         Cont Integrated 23.4%
                         Controlled 21.0%
                         GM Integrated 20.5%
                        Cath VG  10.6%
                        Cont Grammar 3.9%
                        Other VG 2.9
Figures for School Year 2005/6. DE Statistical Press Release 28 Feb 2006
   
3.  “The proportion of pupils at schools under Catholic management who achieved 2 or more A levels or equivalent was higher than the proportion of pupils at schools under Other Management at 44% and 40.8% respectively. Some 81.7% of pupils at grammar schools under Catholic management achieved 2 or more A levels or equivalent, as did 22.3% of pupils at secondary schools under Catholic management. For schools under Other management the equivalent figures were 79.1% and 14.6%.
A higher proportion of pupils leaving grammar schools under Catholic management attend Institutions of Higher Education (73.6%) than pupils leaving grammar schools under Other management (70.8%) A similar trend emerges for secondary school leavers with 17.1% of pupils from secondary schools under Catholic management continuing to Institutes of Higher Education and 9.7% of pupils from secondary schools under Other management”
DE Statistical Pres Release 21 September 2005 . Qualifications and destination of NI School Leavers 2003/04

4.  Cf.  In the Westminster Government’s White Paper Schools Achieving Success (November 2001) there is acceptance of the link between maintaining the ethos of a school, and having influence over key aspects of management of that school, including the employment of teachers, as well as acknowledgement of the link between faith-based schools and standards of achievement. Northern Bishops’ Submission on RPA , September 2005, p.8

5.  33 Nursery schools, 411 Primary, 75 Maintained Secondary and 30 Grammar: Total 549.(45.19% of  schools, excluding Special, Hospital and Independent schools)