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The rise of non-Catholics in Catholic schools

Catholic News - Wed, Oct 19th 2011


Anyone witnessing the morning rush into school at some of the Catholic comprehensive schools in England’s northern towns and cities will notice girls in headscarves and boys in skullcaps and turbans among the pupils, reports the Tablet.

According to the latest census of Catholic schools published by the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CES) the overall percentage of Catholic pupils in Catholic state schools fell to little more than 70 per cent last year. In Catholic sixth-form colleges the figure was closer to half.

In two Welsh dioceses half, or even less then half, of pupils in Catholic secondary schools are from Catholic backgrounds, while in some northern English towns a number of church schools in inner-city areas now have a majority of Muslim children on their rolls.

The proportion of Catholic children at one church primary school in Blackburn, for example, fell so low recently that the local diocese took the decision to withdraw from the school.

In other areas with declining numbers of baptised Catholic children and fewer children from other faiths, Catholic schools are increasingly filling their rolls with children of no faith at all.

Equally startling were the figures for teachers, which showed that only 45 per cent of those working in church secondary schools in England and Wales are practising Catholics. Catholic educationalists blame this on the closure of a number of Catholic teacher training colleges where Catholic trainees were actively encouraged to take jobs in Catholic schools.

The Equality Act is said to be another factor that allows Catholic schools to specify that they are seeking Catholic applicants for key posts such as heads, deputies and heads of RE. “You also have to remember that there is a relatively small pool of Catholic teachers anyway, and the emphasis really is to recruit teachers who are the best for the job,” said Mgr George Stokes, director of education at the Diocese of Brentwood.

There are now around 2,300 Catholic schools in England and Wales serving more than 780,000 children. But their Catholicity, the distinctive ethos that sets them apart from other faith and secular schools, has been called into question in recent years following a significant rise in the proportion of non-Catholics on their rolls.

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