Monday, 02 November 2020 11:36 Written by

 The Catholic Education Service has made it clear to the Welsh Government that they risk ‘losing the trust of the Catholic community’ in Wales if they continue with their planned changes to Religious Education in Catholic schools.

Angela Keller, CES Wales Adviser, made these comments while giving evidence to the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee as it scrutinises the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.

The Bill has caused alarm among Catholic educators because it penalises Catholic schools, placing additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach an additional (secular) RE curriculum.

The proposed legislation seeks to change the name of RE to Religion Values and Ethics, something that all those on the evidence panel (which included representatives from the Church in Wales, the RE teaching profession and local government) strongly disagreed with.

In their evidence, the CES highlighted a ‘lack of trust’ between the Welsh Government and Catholic schools, and that the Bill gave the distinct impression to the Catholic community that these changes were needed because something was wrong with Catholic RE in the first place.

The CES also echoed the concerns of all 84 Catholic headteachers in Wales who wrote a joint letter to the First Minister highlighting the damaging impact these proposals would have on Catholic schools.

The evidence session provided the opportunity for the CES to make the case for parents as the primary educators of their children and insisted that the Catholic community would resist the Bill’s proposals to remove parents’ right of withdrawal from both RE and Relationship and Sex Education.

The extreme unfairness of the new proposals, that would allow a non-Catholic parent the right to demand secular RE for their child in a Catholic school, but would not allow a Catholic parent the right to ask for Catholic RE to be given to their child in a secular school, were also pointed out.

After the evidence session (which took place on Thursday 15 October) CES Wales Adviser Angela Keller commented: “Everyone giving evidence represented either a State partner or a member of the RE profession, and each one of us said the Welsh Government was going in the wrong direction.

“It’s hurtful that the Welsh Government appears to see Catholic schools as the problem because we teach Catholic RE. The Welsh Government needs to start trusting Catholic schools and the professionals who work extremely hard in them.”

 

Notes to Editors

 

  • Further information about the Children, Young People and Education Committee evidence session can be found here: https://business.senedd.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=443&MId=6544&Ver=4
  • The Catholic Church is Wales comprises of three dioceses; the Diocese of Wrexham, the Diocese of Menevia and the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Collectively they have an estimated Catholic population of over 200,000 people
  • There are 84 Catholic schools in Wales, all of which are Voluntary Aided Schools
  • Welsh Catholic schools educate almost 28,000 pupils and employ more than 1500 teachers
  • 54% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are of the Catholic faith 
  • On 5 May 2020, The Welsh Government opened its ‘Curriculum for Wales: Religion, values and ethics’ consultation. This consultation followed on from a previous consultation (entitled ‘Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum’) which asked respondents to comment on a number of proposals, including a change of name for Religious Education and the intention to rescind the parental right of withdrawal from the subject in the new curriculum.
  • Many teachers and leaders in Catholic schools across Wales responded to that consultation to oppose the changes, viewing it as an assault on parental rights and on the academic rigour of Religious Education in Catholic schools
  • According to the Welsh Government’s own consultation analysis, opposition to its proposals came from across the whole sector https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2020-01/full-report-ensuring-access-to-the-full-curriculum.pdf
  • Despite fervent opposition the Welsh Government has moved to introduce these changes to rename Religious Education to Religion, Values and Ethics in the new curriculum
  • Concerns have also been raised over the lack of due process and transparency as the Government may publish the Bill before it considers responses to the RVE consultation
  • The letter from every catholic headteacher to the First Minister can be found here: https://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/component/k2/item/1003692-catholic-school-heads-unite-to-oppose-re-changes

ENDS

The headteacher of every Catholic school in Wales has written to the First Minister asking him to rethink his Government’s proposed changes to Religious Education.

The headteachers of more than 80 Welsh Catholic schools have signed a joint letter asking the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, to stop the proposed legislation surrounding RE which specifically targets the Catholic ethos of their schools.

With the plans uniquely affecting their schools, the headteachers have taken the unprecedented step of collectively asking for reassurance that it is not the Government’s specific intention to damage Catholic schools. 

The Welsh Government plans to expand the scope of traditional RE to ‘Religion Values and Ethics’, removing the academic rigor of the subject and reducing it to an over-simplistic comparison exercise which fails to understand the fundamentals of faith and religion. 

The new proposals, published in May, specifically penalise Catholic schools, placing additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach two separate RE curriculums without any consideration of resourcing impactions this would have for schools.

In their letter, the headteachers state that the proposed changes to RE fail to recognise the heritage and deep connection Religious Education has within church schools, including Catholic schools, which dedicate 10% of curriculum time to the subject.

They go on to say the Welsh Government’s desire to create a so-called ‘neutral values’ curriculum risks moving towards a homogeneous education system which would no longer recognise children’s legal right to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of their own faith as well as those of others.

Prior to the proposed legislation, a majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation said they were against the name change of RE and that they supported the continuation of parents’ rights to withdraw their children from RE. On both of these, the Welsh Government have ignored popular opinion.

Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service, which represents Catholic schools in Wales, commented: “I hope this letter from all of the headteachers makes the Welsh Government realise the overwhelming strength of feeling against these proposals to the Catholic community. They strike at the very identity of Catholic schools and at the heart of the principle that that parents, and not the State, are the primary and principal educators of their children.”

Notes to Editors

  • The full letter can be read here
  • The Catholic Church is Wales comprises of three dioceses; the Diocese of Wrexham, the Diocese of Menevia and the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Collectively they have an estimated Catholic population of over 200,000 people
  • There are 84 Catholic schools in Wales, all of which are Voluntary Aided Schools
  • Welsh Catholic schools educate almost 28,000 pupils and employ more than 1500 teachers
  • 54% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are of the Catholic faith 
  • On 5 May 2020, The Welsh Government opened its ‘Curriculum for Wales: Religion, values and ethics’ consultation. This consultation followed on from a previous consultation (entitled ‘Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum’) which asked respondents to comment on a number of proposals, including a change of name for Religious Education and the intention to rescind the parental right of withdrawal from the subject in the new curriculum.
  • Many teachers and leaders in Catholic schools across Wales responded to the Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum consultation to oppose the changes, viewing it as an assault on parental rights and on the academic rigour of Religious Education in Catholic schools
  • According to the Welsh Government’s analysis of the Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum consultation, opposition to its proposals came from across the whole sector https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2020-01/full-report-ensuring-access-to-the-full-curriculum.pdf
  • Despite fervent opposition the Welsh Government has moved to introduce these changes to rename Religious Education to Religion, Values and Ethics in the new curriculum
  • Serious concerns were also raised by parents and teachers about the removal of the parental right of withdrawal for RE  as it infringed on the core Catholic belief that parents are the primary educators and the legal right of children to receive an upbringing in their faith
  • The Welsh Government intends to introduce a Curriculum and Assessment Bill in order to implement these changes
  • Concerns have also been raised over the lack of due process and transparency as the Government may publish the Bill before it considers responses to the RVE consultation
  • At the time of writing, the CES understands that the Government is not minded to postpone the legislation, regardless of the unforeseen impact of the Covid-19 crisis on schools 

ENDS

Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service commented: “Catholic schools have a particular care for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and are rightly concerned about the effects of a prolonged absence from school for these and other children. Many Catholic schools are therefore already planning for opening in a safe and sustainable manner as soon as conditions allow it.

“The COVID-19 crisis has presented schools with an unprecedented challenge and in Catholic schools, school leaders, teachers and support staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Any phased reopening must place the safety, health and well-being of pupils and staff as its number one priority and should be done in close collaboration with dioceses and local authorities.

“In this respect, schools must be provided with clear information, proper support and enough time to plan and make thorough risk assessments, before they make the final decision to re-open. The CES remains committed to working with the Government to ensure that these key elements of support are put in place for dioceses and governing bodies.

“With pupils having missed a significant part of the school year, parents need to know that, as we slowly return to some semblance of normality, Catholic schools will be able to provide the pastoral, educational and spiritual support that are so needed in these challenging times.” 

 ENDS

To all teachers, parents, support staff, governors and pupils in Catholic schools

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In what has been arguably one of the most challenging periods of time in a generation, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all who are working in Catholic education.

True to their vocation, the leaders, teachers and support staff in our Catholic schools and colleges have worked selflessly and outstandingly, often at great personal cost and with potential risks to themselves and their families. By keeping schools and colleges open for vulnerable pupils and children of key workers, providing home-learning resources, teaching lessons remotely, maintaining the spiritual and pastoral care of pupils, keeping in touch with families and so much more, our education workforce have rendered a great service both to the nation and to their communities in this time of need.

We should pay tribute also to the parents of pupils who, along with all of the day to day challenges they have had to face during this pandemic crisis, have exercised their role as the first educators of their children within their homes. Nevertheless, many parents are worried about the amount of school-time their children have missed and how this will impact on their development and their future.

We know too, that this crisis is disproportionately affecting the disadvantaged. Our Catholic schools have a special mission to care for the poorest and most vulnerable children and young people in society, and they have significantly more pupils from the most deprived backgrounds than other schools. It is critical therefore that every effort is made to enable more pupils to resume their education in school as soon as it is safe to do so.

Recently, the Government announced that it has commenced the very slow process of gradually lifting the restrictions which were implemented to protect the lives of all of our country’s citizens. To assist headteachers and governing bodies with their planning on how to re-admit more of their pupils back to the school premises once conditions allow, the Catholic Education Service has sought to work closely with the Government to ensure that proper support and clear information is given to dioceses, religious orders, multi-academy trusts and schools. Ultimately though, the safety, health and wellbeing of both pupils and staff must be our foremost priority.

Our society will have to live with the legacy of this crisis for many months and years to come but the fortitude and resolve demonstrated by our Catholic schools’ sector during this emergency has been extraordinary and is something of which we can be rightly proud. 

As we face the challenges ahead of us, please do continue to pray for our schools and colleges, their leaders, teachers, parents and pupils.

With the assurance of my prayers and every blessing, I remain

Yours in the Lord

+ Marcus

The Right Reverend Marcus Stock

Chairman of the Catholic Education Service

Bishop of Leeds

21st May 2020

Monday, 17 February 2020 17:20

Lent Resources

The Catholic Education Service has today criticised the Welsh Government’s decision to remove the parental right of withdrawal for Religious Education and Relationships and Sexuality Education, as well as the proposed name change of Religious Education.

The CES expressed dismay with the decision referring to is as a ‘regressive step’ which would undermine ‘parent’s fundamental and inalienable role as the primary educators of their children’.

Hundreds of Catholics parents and teachers responded to the consultation as well as contacted their local Assembly Member about this issue. For the CES, today’s decision represents a complete disregard for the opinions of the Catholic community in Wales.

Full statement below.

Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service commented: “Today’s announcement from the Welsh Government represents a regressive step in the relationship between parents, schools and the State.

“By removing the parental right of withdrawal, these proposals risk undermining parents’ fundamental and inalienable role as the primary educators of their children.

“Many hundreds of Catholics made representations during the consultation. However, it is clear from today’s announcement that the Welsh Government is content with ignoring the views of the Catholic community.

“The proposed name change of Religious Education is also a step in the wrong direction. It is an unnecessary change which does nothing to improve the academic integrity of RE, but represents a dumbing down of the subject and a weakening of the whole school’s responsibility for instilling values and ethics in its pupils.”

ENDS

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