School News (141)

PACT imageChildren in England with a parent in prison have access to more support with a new, dedicated resource pack for schools and educational settings.   

The new toolkit provides advice and support for teachers who have children in their classes with a parent in prison. It seeks to foster understanding about the issue in schools and to ensure that young people affected by imprisonment know that there is help available for them. The toolkit has been produced by national Catholic charity Pact, the Prison Advice and Care Trust.   

With the prison population across England & Wales near a record high, so too is the number of children being affected by the imprisonment of a parent. It’s estimated that around 100,000 children have a father or mother behind bars right now and research estimates that around 1 in 15children (7%) will experience a parent’s imprisonment at some point during their time at school. 

Many children with a parent in prison go on to lead positive and fulfilling lives. However, a range of research shows that they are more likely to suffer from problems later in life, including mental health problems, homelessness and poverty.

The new toolkit provides teachers with a range of resources to support children affected by imprisonment. It seeks to give teachers the confidence to create a space for the whole class to discuss the issue and allows fellow students to empathise with children who are affected and find ways to support them. 

Aimee Hutchinson, Children and Young People Lead at Pact, said:“The imprisonment of a father or mother can have a devastating impact on children and young people. With the right support, children with a parent in prison will go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives. However, it’s a sad fact that they face more challenges than many other children and that there remains a real stigma around having a family member in prison.  

“We hope this new guidance will support teachers to have an open and constructive discussion about these issues that affect many thousands of children and young people every year.”

Request a free toolkit

Harry Rawcliffe chaplain image cropHarry Rawcliffe is school chaplain at The Campion School, Hornchurch, in Brentwood Diocese.

‘Sir, what do you do?’, a Year 8 student asked me as I stood on the playground in the first month of my new job. I had to pause and consider the question – not just because I had not yet had my morning coffee!

I offered something boiler-plate along the lines of ‘I help the school to live out our faith.’ True, I suppose. Yet insufficient!

In my two years here I have only become more convinced of the vital role of a dedicated chaplain in Catholic secondary schools. No job description can quite capture the role. You are a source of pastoral support and counsel for staff and students. You are a networker and catalyst for energy and initiatives already present in the school and the wider community – charity initiatives, social justice projects, wellbeing and spiritual development opportunities. You walk with individuals up the mountain of God – leading them to, and facilitating, moments of encounter in the Sacraments or on retreat.

But more fundamentally, a school chaplain is themselves. You bring your own joy, style and personal touch to the role. For some, this means using musical or artistic gifts and talents. For others, it means helping out in PE and with sports teams. For me, it is neither of those examples! Whatever it is, a school chaplain brings themself to the role, as they are. Young people can smell ‘inauthenticity’ from a mile away. When they are accompanied by people who are simply being themselves, young people feel able to be themselves too.

I find my own prayer life to be the one thing that can give me the grace I need to do my job well – because in prayer we remember who God is, and who we truly are.

What are some essential skills to be a school chaplain? Know that you are loved by God and that you are a pilgrim on the journey of life. Be the sort of person who finds joy and life in building relationships with those you are walking with on the pilgrim way (see also: The Road to Emmaus). Have a heart for sharing the love of God you have come to know. Be able to laugh at yourself and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself – sadly no photographic evidence exists of me on ‘sponge a teacher’ day, but many of our students can attest that I took my fair share of blows!

The school chaplain is a joyful witness of the resurrection in their community. There is a dearth of hope in the present young generation, which we need to have an answer for (we do, and his name is Jesus!) This doesn’t necessarily mean you spend every moment in school talking about Jesus. There are plenty of opportunities for that, such as assemblies and liturgies, but there is also a lot of time simply journeying through the ups and downs of everyday life. As a wise Jesuit priest and former Headteacher once advised me, ‘Spend time with them talking about the things that don’t matter. Then they will come to you to talk about the things that do matter.’

Being a school chaplain has been the greatest joy and privilege of my life so far. So much of the role is discreet, gentle, personal and – to use one of Pope Francis’ favourite words – tender. That might not be captured easily in productivity targets or exam data. But it resonates with Elijah’s encounter with God, in the gentle breeze.

I would absolutely encourage anyone who thinks they might have a heart for school chaplaincy to explore it, perhaps by finding time to shadow a chaplain already in post. The Church needs you!

To find out more about becoming a school chaplain, please contact your diocese

Harry Rawcliffe is on the far left in the picture above, taken during events to mark World Youth Day, in Portugal, 2023. 

Paul Barber, Catholic Education Service Director, said: “Catholic schools take in 50% more pupils from the most deprived backgrounds than the state sector.

“Just under a fifth of all pupils in Catholic statutory education meet the highest Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) criteria, compared to a 12.8% England average. Similarly, fewer pupils from the more affluent areas attend Catholic schools.

“Catholic schools have ten times the catchment area of other schools, and so are less reflective of their immediate locality.

“Free school meals are available for parents on benefits, but continue after household income rises above eligibility criteria. The number of Catholic school pupils on free school meals is marginally lower than the national average as many parents are ineligible due to immigration status or low-paid employment, with barriers to take-up including the complexity of applications and financial privacy concerns.”

Bishop Marcus image landscapeDear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this liturgical season of Advent, we encounter refrains of preparation and expectation. These are experienced in the daily and Sunday readings; they culminate at Christmas in celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the renewal of the calendar year with the Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God.

Soon the school term will also give way to the holiday period. To school leaders, teachers, learning assistants, chaplains all those employed in our diocesan schools and colleges, I offer my thanks for their dedicated work and for their vocation within Catholic education.

Every year yields new challenges and those who exercise governance give so generously of their time, experience, and expertise. I wish to express my thanks therefore also to school and university governors and to trust boards, for their stewardship of the Church’s school, college and university communities and their important role in Catholic education.

Of course, parents are the first teachers of their children. The school environment in which children are taught and can flourish is founded upon all that they learn first in the family home. The parental love and encouragement which children receive in their home is reflected in the continued success of Catholic education at all levels, and for this grace we give thanks to the Lord.

May Almighty God bless you, your families and loved ones through these joyous days of Advent and Christmas and keep you safe throughout the Year of Our Lord 2024.

With the assurance of my prayers for you all, I remain,

Your servant in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rt Rev Marcus Stock
Chair of the Catholic Education Service
Bishop of Leeds

CCE Yellow and Red Logo 002Are you committed to supporting and developing chaplaincy in education and called to give your time, experience and skill to the role of a trustee?

The Centre For Chaplaincy In Education is seeking new trustees. 

You might be a serving or retired chaplain or church or school leader, or you may be approaching this from another perspective.

Whatever your background and interest, the CCE would be pleased to hear from you.

As well as a general trustee roles, we are also looking for someone who can take on responsibility for finance.  

For an informal conversation please contact Mike Haslam, Chair of Trustees, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Leeds Trinity University webA podcast on how to return Church thought to public debate is now available, with episodes featuring contributions from a former government minister, Catholic university leaders and internationally distinguished academics.

Beyond The Dark Clouds is hosted by Leeds Trinity University, one of four Catholic universities in England, and is centred around justice in contested issues such as law enforcement, economics, spirituality, the arts and more.

Episodes include former Labour government Trade and Industry, and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs minister, Sir John Battle discussing the relevance of a Catholic university in the secular world. Leadership and the future of Catholic higher education is considered by Anthony McClaran, Vice-Chancellor St Mary’s University.

Professor Nicolas Vergier of the Institut Catholique de Paris and International Federation of Catholic Universities addresses the purpose of Catholic universities. Justice in policing is the theme undertaken by Professor Tobias Winright of St Patrick's Pontifical University, in Maynooth, Ireland.

Dr Ann Marie Mealey, Director of Catholic Mission at Leeds Trinity, speaks about the relevance of Catholic Social Teaching for debate in the public square and higher education sector. She explains that education for hope is the key theme for the series, in seeking to demonstrate how Catholic education and Catholic intellectual tradition can offer hope to a fractured world.

Other subjects for discussion include universities renewing a sense of purpose in students; faith and conversion in the works of Virginia Woolf; spirituality and art, as well as the need for a new narrative of faith in society.

An excellent lecture on spiritual friendship in relation to the Synod, given by internationally respected scholar and author on Christian education, Professor John Sullivan, can help listeners to consider the route to dialogue in a period of listening in the Church.

Pope Francis in his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti (on fraternity and social friendship) refers to ‘dark clouds over a closed world’, which inspired the podcast’s title.

Beyond The Dark Clouds is hosted and produced by Dr Ann Marie Mealey, with help from the university’s Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Darren Harper.

Listen to Beyond The Dark Clouds on Spotify and other platforms.

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

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