School News (135)

Wednesday, 29 November 2023 13:58

Catholic schools save £500,000 by going green

Energy saving school imageSeventy Catholic primaries and secondaries in the Archdioceses of Birmingham and Westminster have saved over £500,000 - enough to employ 30 teaching assistants - by clubbing together to commission reviews of how their premises use energy.

Known as Heat Decarbonisation Plans (HDPs), these detailed assessments, commissioned by the Archdioceses’ education services, revealed that upgrading building management systems could make big savings through more efficient energy use.

The schools then put in place a range of measures including improved metering for gas and electricity monitoring, LED lighting, and for schools installing solar panels these then provided up to half of their electricity.

St John Paul II Multi Academy runs nine schools in the Birmingham area, including in Walmley, Erdington and Sutton Coldfield, which have since saved £80,000, equivalent to 871,000 units of gas.

John Carroll, Facilities Manager for St John Paul II Multi Academy, said: “The prices just kept going up, we had to take control of it.

“The HDPs recommended new control panels for the boilers, and straight away we found we were saving a lot of money. By managing data for energy use it’s made a huge difference – we've cut down gas usage by 30%.

“Schools are looking at conservation now, and headteachers can talk to staff and pupils with savings for the past year and say ‘this is what you’ve done, now let’s keep it going’.”

The Archdioceses used Churchmarketplace, a not-for-profit procurement service set up by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to help Catholic schools and parishes bulk-buy collectively to save on costs.

The Archdioceses then contracted energy efficiency consultancy Zeco to work out where savings could be made in schools, supported by Churchmarketplace.

Much of educational budgets are spent on products and services, such as stationery, transport, catering, computers, broadband, and printers, all of which can be made much cheaper by bulk purchases with multiple schools.

Jennifer Williamson, Director of Churchmarketplace, said: “Headteachers continue to come under huge pressure from inflation when setting budgets. By buying together with other schools real savings can be made on costs, and energy-efficient systems put in place which go on to save even more.”

Two of the key texts of Pope Francis are Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home, and Laudate Deum, which emphasise the importance of protecting the environment against a culture of disposability.

Find out more about Churchmarketplace

Chaplain imageThe first apprenticeship and career pathway for school chaplains and youth ministers is helping resolve difficulties in formation, recruitment and retention.

Many of the 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies in England employ lay chaplains to address the social, emotional and spiritual needs of students and staff. However, lack of career progression and limited pay can result in low numbers of applicants for school chaplain vacancies, stretched between multiple sites, and who then move on to jobs with better prospects.

Tom Baptist, in collaboration with the Diocese of Nottingham Education Service, has highlighted the issue in establishing a career pathway from apprentice level up to a regional chaplaincy director. Within this a lay chaplain support staff post has been created to avoid teaching assistants taking on pastoral duties beyond their role. It provides formal recognition for their work, improved salary, and potential career progression into chaplaincy.

The lay chaplains are supported by the education structure in Nottingham Diocese, with all 84 of its state-funded Catholic schools within three multi-academy trusts (MATs). Consistent pay and conditions are ensured by the diocesan Human Resources Director who oversees all three MATs.

Also working to solve this problem is Susan Elderfield, Chaplaincy Adviser for the Archdiocese of Southwark, where there are 163 Catholic schools. In 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic she approached St Mary’s University, in Twickenham, to set up a Chaplaincy and Youth Ministry Apprenticeship. This resulted in the Education Skills Funding Agency awarding the university training provider status.

The Level 4 apprenticeship promotes a vocational pathway to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours of chaplains and youth ministers. It pays particular attention to their formation, which has historically suffered due to an overreliance on informal on-the-job training with some support.

The apprenticeship covers a range of topics, including safeguarding, special education needs and disabilities, bereavement, mental health, behaviour management and the skills to support and lead the spiritual, religious and liturgical life of a school. During the programme each apprentice qualifies as a Youth Mental Health First Aider and achieves a Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies.

Apprentice Alexandra Shelton-Bourke described her experience of studying the course as ‘incredible’, and ‘very practical’. She said: “I continue to learn and develop different skills that I would not have learned otherwise. These skills have been valuable during my placement at school when leading a staff liturgy and delivering acts of worship to students.”

As a result of this apprenticeship, Susan said: “In Southwark, a greater number of schools now have access to a chaplain, and the apprentices feel part of a professional support network. This is important for pupils and for the Catholic life and mission of schools.”

The first 15 apprentices are currently on placements in schools and retreat centres across the dioceses of Southwark, Westminster, Nottingham and Birmingham. They come from a range of backgrounds and ages, some straight from school, others graduates and youth workers, and one a former managing director. Recruitment is currently ongoing for the third cohort which will start in January 2024.

Find out more about the School and College Chaplaincy and Youth Ministry apprenticeship

Dr John Patterson at the United NationsLiverpool is a city famous throughout the world, and a Catholic school is making sure the tradition continues in the field of specialist education.

Dr John Patterson (pictured, left), Principal at St Vincent’s School, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, has overseen pupils developing a disability sports toolbox that now helps children in 20 countries across four continents.

He has championed pupils’ leadership skills with an enriched curriculum which has them teaching their international peers in how to use the toolbox, and the Indonesian government has since asked for 70,000 of its social workers to be similarly trained.

The school's pupils have made ceramic Remembrance poppies worn by leaders including then-Prime Minister Theresa May; they have sung for the Queen; and have also been featured in an exhibition by celebrity photographer Rankin for the COP26 climate change summit that took place in Glasgow during 2021.

So how did a lad in oil-stained overalls end up empowering a generation of visually-impaired (VI) young people, both in Britain and beyond? 

Innovating education

John Patterson originally started out as an engineer more than 30 years ago, when his mother supported him to retrain as a teacher at Liverpool Hope, one of four Catholic universities in England. Working in inner city primary schools, he soon designed activities linking sports with technology, eventually returning to Liverpool Hope as Head of PE in teacher training and education.

During this time he completed a Master’s degree and PhD and was then asked by the government to set up a free school, at which he was appointed headteacher. In 2012 Dr Patterson became Principal of St Vincent’s School.

“When the Holy Father calls for the reaching of the marginalised we couldn’t really be reaching a more marginalised group than the visually impaired,” he said, adding that the unemployment rate for adults with visual impairments is around 85%, while they have on average five or six fewer friends than sighted people, contributing to isolation, health and wellbeing issues.

As Principal, Dr Patterson set about encouraging students’ entrepreneurialism, employment skills, creativity, and solidarity with those less fortunate. On Wednesdays pupils choose lessons they feel play to their strengths, including in music, drama, sports, ICT, environmental work, and growing food on the school grounds to use in a student-run café.

“Our Lord asked blind Bartimaeus what he wanted, He didn’t presume,” Dr Patterson said, “So for me it’s a big part of following His lead, giving both voice and choice.”

From the Mersey to the world

At the same time he has made use of an extensive network of contacts built up in the city over the years to open up new opportunities for the school.

Pupils have designed computer games and given presentations to major employers including Capita and cereal producer Kellogg’s, which led to VI-accessible information being added to packaging. An essay on the theme of peace, part of citizenship learning, led to a pupil travelling to New York through Liverpool Lions Club to read out his prize-winning entry at the United Nations headquarters.

“It’s a real encouragement to have their voices heard and included, where so often they’re overlooked,” Dr Patterson said. 

When pupils learned how little equipment VI children in developing countries have, they resolved to help address the situation. With support from Liverpool Hope and John Moores universities they devised the Sightbox, containers of items to assist blind and VI children participating in sport, such as gym kits, a boccia grid and balls, a goalball, pedometer, digital talking watch, and card games in braille.

Through Liverpool Rotary Club Sightboxes have now been delivered to VI schools worldwide including in Pakistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Peru, the Virgin Islands, Indonesia and many more including in Nepal (see image below) .

Sightboxes are now enjoyed by VI children at schools around the world

Rotary representatives say the children are much more independent and confident when they have visited a year after first delivering the Sightboxes. The initiative has been recognised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, and St Vincent’s also sends prescription glasses to children in poorer countries whose eyesight is at risk due to albinism.

The school’s achievements came to the attention of Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald M. Afr. OBE, who was so impressed that he invited the pupils to present their international work at an interfaith forum attended by elders from local mosques and the Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, Mark Blundell.

Cardinal Fitzgerald has since invited the Society of Missionaries of Africa, into which he was ordained in 1961, to partner with the school.

As part of celebrations last year to mark the 250th anniversary of Amazing Grace, St Vincent’s pupils sang at St Peter and St Paul, at Olney, near Milton Keynes. This was the parish church of the hymn’s composer, the Revd John Newton, at which the school had been invited to participate in an event organised by the nearby Cowper and Newton Museum.


These activities count towards the Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award, and some of the students have gone on to secure their Gold DofE and play for England VI teams. The school hosts the mandatory VI teacher training programme with John Moores University, while sighted students from elsewhere in the region are taught by St Vincent’s pupils in how to play disability sports, a concept of ‘reverse inclusion’ to promote leadership.

The success of the school has not gone unnoticed, and Dr Patterson won the Silver Lifetime Achievement category at the Pearson National Teaching Awards 2023 and has been granted the Freedom of the City of Liverpool. He has also written a book on VI for Redemptorist Publications, and contributed to a collection of essays celebrating the life-changing impact of Liverpool Hope University, launched at Lambeth Palace Library.

The city’s Regional Combined Authority has affirmed a task force to assist Dr Patterson in delivering international collaborations, emphasising the contribution of Liverpool to the UK economy and drawing research and development funding to the area.

He said: “It’s all part of our school’s enriched curriculum, to enable, empower and signpost pupils into opportunity and employability, and helping other VI pupils globally, it’s what our pupils wanted to do.

“We’re not blind — we’ve got vision.”

St Vincent’s School was established on its present site in 1901 by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. It is part of the Catholic Blind Institute and is consistently rated by Ofsted as outstanding.

Find out more


Catholic schools educate a much higher proportion of pupils from the most deprived backgrounds than other schools, according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI), with ten times the catchment area of local schools so less reflective of immediate localities.

Free school meals are an inaccurate indicator for example, they continue after after household incomes exceed the threshold. Catholic schools welcome children with SEND, and parents will want to choose the school that is best for their children’s needs.

For a child with an EHCP, it is the local authority, not the school, that makes the decision about which school the child will attend, based solely on the child’s needs.

If parents decides that the local mainstream Catholic school is not the best fit for their child’s particular needs, they might instead opt for another school, such as a Catholic special school or a Catholic school approved for SEN pupils, of which there are 26 in England and Wales.  

Catholic schools nationally take 50% more children than other schools from the 10% most deprived areas, and about 25% fewer from the 10% most affluent areas: for IDACI figures see page 53 of the 2022 Census of Catholic schools in England

Columbans Biodiversity Matters schools competition webThe Columban Missionaries in Britain announce the launch of their latest Schools Media Competition 2023-2024 which has the title: ‘Biodiversity Matters’. The launch is during the first week of the Season of Creation when Christian communities around the world focus on valuing and protecting God’s creation. And a core aspect of Columban mission is justice, peace and ecology.

The competition is aimed at students aged between 13-18 years old in Catholic schools who are invited to explore Biodiversity – the richness of life forms on Earth and which humanity relies on for health, food and well-being. It is looking for pieces of writing and images that demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the issue of Biodiversity and highlight people, communities and/or organisations trying to build a sustainable future.

Pope Francis has told us that "because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God ... We have no such right" (Laudato Si' #33)

Columbans worldwide see the devastating impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on people and the environment as interwoven moral issues in need of prophetic responses. Inspiration for action is drawn from the 2015 teaching document by Pope Francis, Laudato Si'.

In his role as Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker in Britain, James Trewby visits young people in schools and sixth forms and runs workshops, retreats and assemblies to promote justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

He said: “I’m delighted that the Columban Schools Media Competition this year focuses on the theme of Biodiversity. In a world of increasing globalisation and environmental degradation, management of biological diversity is one of the most important and critical challenges facing humankind today. The Columbans are keen to nurture the student voice and provide an opportunity for young people to engage with this issue.”

Encouraging creativity and faith engagement with issues in the world today, this year’s competition welcomes both written and image entries until the closing date of 17 February 2024. Winners will be announced on Columban media on 21 March 2024, the International Day of Forests.

Two separate competitions will be judged, one for students in Britain and one for students in Ireland. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winning entrants and the first prize in Britain is an impressive £500.

High-profile judges from the world of journalism have been secured, including Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet and Jo Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News. Also, Catholic experts on environmental protection and education, including Columban eco-theologian Fr Sean McDonagh and environmentalist Mary Colwell.

Winning entries will be published in the Columbans’ Far East magazine, Vocation for Justice newsletter, Columban websites in Ireland and Britain, Columban social media and in other Catholic media.

Schools will find the Columban Competition website a useful resource. It includes information on the theme, examples of Church work on Biodiversity, Catholic Social Teaching on the theme of Biodiversity and information about inspirational Catholics working on the issue. There are also details on submission of entries and a helpful FAQ page. The website provides material suitable for students, teachers and parents.

This is the seventh annual School’s Media Competition. Past themes have included Migrants, Climate Change, Racism, 21st Century Changemakers and Peace.

Find out more

Tuesday, 05 September 2023 08:30

Gathering together for Education Sunday

Bishop Marcus image landscapeThis year, the 10th of September marks the celebration of Education Sunday for the Church in England and Wales.

In our prayer intentions, we will ask Almighty God to bless all people involved in Catholic education, and to bless the year ahead.

The resources provided to schools and to parishes focus on the promise given by Jesus in St Matthew’s Gospel: Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them (Matthew 18:20).

As students and staff gather for Education Sunday, they can take these words to heart, for our Lord Jesus Christ always keeps His promise: you are gathered together in His name and He is with you as you work, learn, pray, grow and live out your mission.

The great desire of Jesus is to be with us and to invite us to enter into a personal relationship with Him, a relationship of love. When a person knows they are truly loved, a new confidence abounds.

The mission of our Catholic schools, colleges and universities is to provide a holistic education which enables the lives of children and young people to flourish and for them to be formed into the men and women that God the Father has created them to be.

We owe much gratitude to all those who have governed, led, taught and supported the children and young people in our Catholic schools, colleges and universities over the years, and those who continue to create the environments and opportunities for a loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since the 19th century the Catholic Church has become the country’s largest provider of secondary schools and second-largest provider of primary schools. They now outperform national averages for GCSE English, Maths and Religious Education results, while taking in more pupils from the most deprived backgrounds.

On Education Sunday, as we gather in the name of the Lord Jesus and have confidence that He is with us as He promised, let us give thanks to Almighty God for all the ways He has been present to us amidst the joys and sorrows of our life. Let us invite Him to be with us over the coming academic year.

The Right Reverend Marcus Stock MA, STL
Bishop of Leeds
Chairman of the Catholic Education Service

The CES and Ten Ten Resources have produced free, downloadable Education Sunday resources for use by schools and parishes

Foundation governor imageAre you looking for a way to live out your faith and serve your local community at the same time?

Since the 19th century the Catholic Church has become the country’s largest provider of secondary schools and second-largest of primary schools, along with four universities – but now they need your help.

Educational institutions are generally governed by a body made up of different types of representatives, such as parent governors and teacher governors.

Catholic schools and universities also include foundation governors, who volunteer to ensure the Catholic vision and character of the school is upheld. Appointed on behalf of the Bishop, foundation governors should always form a majority.

Since the pandemic Catholic educational institutions have experienced vacancies for foundation governors, and more are needed to sustain their Catholic ethos and leadership.

Paul Barber, Catholic Education Service Director, said: “As throughout history, Catholics must be prepared to support, promote and defend Catholic education.

“Practising Catholics could make excellent foundation governors, or know someone who might be interested, so please find out about getting involved by contacting your diocese.”

Foundation governors come from all walks of life, bringing a mix of skills, knowledge and experience. Catholic school pupils in England and in Wales are from significantly more diverse ethnic minority backgrounds than the state sector, and governing bodies should reflect this.

The main role of a governing body is at a strategic level, holding leadership to account; overseeing financial performance and setting the budget; managing admissions criteria; and being involved in recruiting to the most senior roles.

Being a foundation governor involves attending on average three full governing body meetings per year as well as serving on a committee focusing on issues such as staff pay, or admissions. Free training is provided by the diocese.

The 2,169 schools, colleges and academies in England and Wales continue to be true to their mission, by educating more pupils from the most deprived backgrounds, and also outperform national GCSE English, Maths and Religious Education averages.

Foundation governors are also needed for Catholic higher education, at Leeds Trinity, Liverpool Hope, Birmingham Newman and St Mary’s universities.

To find out more about becoming a school foundation governor please contact your diocese. If you are interested in becoming a governor at a Catholic university please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cardinal Nichols and pupilsFree new RE resources have been published to help teach sixth form students about the call to holiness.

The optional Core RE Vocation module has been produced by the National Office for Vocation (NOV) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. 

The resources include:

a staff handbook of seven structured lessons


student workbooks

Powerpoint presentations


Lessons are based around the themes of vocation and discernment; the call to serve; marriage; the holy orders of Deacon, Priesthood and Bishop; consecrated religious life; a guest speaker; and assessment.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, NOV Chair, said: “The Call to Holiness’ is heard at different moments in a person’s life and its response takes different forms. For some it may be a lifelong commitment to religious life or priesthood but for others it may be in the married or single life, in teaching, the caring professions or in the world of law and business, or a combination of these.

"But the ‘Call to Holiness’ is universal and applies to everyone no matter what path in life they choose.”

Read and download the Core RE Vocations Module

Bishop Marcus image landscape

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At this stage in the calendar, when we draw close to the summit of the Liturgical Year - the Sacred Paschal Triduum, we celebrate with reverence the passion and death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and we look forward with joy to celebrating at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night and on Easter Sunday morning his resurrection from the dead.

As we come to the end of this term, it is also a time for many students in our schools which coincides with an intense period of study in preparation for examinations in the summer. For young people, it is a time of hope but it can be a time of anxiety also. What is most important though, is that their time in school is a time when they can flourish: in mind, body and spirit. Christ came that we might have life and have it to the full. The flourishing of young lives through Catholic education is indebted to the years of dedication and commitment given by school leaders, teachers, learning assistants, chaplains and by all the staff and governors of our schools.

On the threshold of Holy Week, we catch sight of the new life in Christ which his death and resurrection holds out to us and to the world. It is a vision which we glimpse in the prayers and liturgy taking place in schools and churches up and down the land.

I give thanks to Almighty God for the noble vocation of all of you who work and serve in our schools. I pray that you, your families and your loved ones will receive many blessings from the Lord during this great Solemn Feast of Easter, and that it will be a time of joy and thanksgiving for you all.

With the assurance of my prayers, I remain,

Your servant in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Rt Rev Marcus Stock

Chair of the Catholic Education Service

Bishop of Leeds

RE image lower res

Catholic schools’ GCSE Religious Education (RE) exam results are the best in the country, according to the latest data.

Analysis by the Catholic Education Service (CES) of GCSE RE attainment for 2022 has shown that results from Catholic schools have overtaken the national average for the exams.

Last year 75.2% of Catholic school RE GCSE candidates scored a C+ or grade 4, compared to 68.3% nationally.

The results at A Level were more comparable, however, with 66.9% achieving A* or B in Catholic schools, compared to 67.7% in all schools.

Just over a quarter (25.6%) of all pupils who sat GCSE RE exams last year were from Catholic schools, while the proportion was 9.8% at A Level.

Across England and Wales there are 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies, which educate more than 849,000 pupils.

This represents 9% of the state sector in England and 6% in Wales.

Philip Robinson, CES RE Adviser, said: “This is good news, and testament to the hard work of RE teachers and students in Catholic education.

In a society both increasingly secular and religiously pluralistic, RE has an essential role in enabling respectful dialogue on contentious issues like faith and science; refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.”

The CES has recently launched a new RE Directory, for introduction from 2025 – find out more.

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