Bishops should push for freedom for schools

Philip Booth features in the Catholic Herald

There is much good practice in Catholic education, but it is an uphill struggle for those trying to succeed. The institutional environment determined by our bishops and politicians is not conducive to good outcomes.

The bishops’ 2007 joint pastoral letter on education said: “For a very long time now, the Catholic Church has been an important partner with public authorities in the provision of education.” This perspective, which sees education as something that is handed down to parents through a partnership of bureaucracies, needs reviewing.

Catholic social teaching, consistently and without variation, makes the case for parents to be at the centre of decision-making on behalf of their children. Instead, the best that parents can hope for is a choice between a state Catholic school and a state secular school. In parts of London, places at the state Catholic school may not even be available. Also, if the Catholic school is poor, either in terms of its educational standards or the Catholic formation that is given to children, parents are powerless.

Those schools that really are beacons of excellence and operate within the Catholic state education system overcome significant obstacles. Secu