by Rita Wall THE general secretary of the Federation of Catholic Teachers this week said his members welcomed Cardinal Basil Hume's criticism of teacher shortages and said his members were facing "a crisis situation".
"We were pleased that Cardinal Hume declared publicly his abhorence of the present situation, a situation which Catholic organisations have already criticised," said Mr Michael Emm, general secretary of the Catholic Teachers Federation. "We feel that he will be most certainly heard."
In a wide-ranging speech made at the North of England Educatiort Conference the cardinal called on the government to increase teachers' pay. "The pay levels of teachers are too low, administrative burdens too great, the pace of change too hectic and unsettling," he said.
"We find that at a time when the government is introducing a new curriculum it is unacceptable to be lacking in the main resource which will put this curriculum into action — the teachers," said Mr Emm, who is headmaster at the Archbishop Ilsley School in Birmingham. "Being a headmaster I regularly have difficulty finding suitably qualified staff," he said.
Mr Emm pointed out that Catholic schools faced the difficult situation of not just having to recruit teachers but also teachers who are either Catholic or sympathetic to Catholic values.
Mr Peter Fursey, secretary of the Catholic Secondary Schools and Colleges Conference and Society of the Bishops Coordination Committee on Inservice, Evaluation and Appraisal, said he was also pleased with Cardinal Hume's comments.
"But it is important to look at the Cardinal's comments in the context of the whole speech," said Mr Fursey. "he stressed the importance of spiritual values, parent power to the national curriculum, and these were not covered by the national media," he said.
"Cardinal Hume's speech was an excellent one in the tight of raising many pertinent issues which needed to be said by a public figure who will be listened to," said Mr Fursey.
With this speech, Cardinal Hume is being seen as an ally to teachers, union officials and education officers throughout Britain, Mr Fursey stressed.
The power behind the cardinal's address lay in his accurate portrayal of the many issues facing education, Mr Fursey went on. He had stressed that staff shortages were only one area of concern.
The cardinal's hard-hitting speech, which criticised a whole range of areas of government education policy, brought comments from Education Minister John MacGregor when he addressed the same con ference two days later. He said recent reforms included the most powerful mechanism for bringing to public awareness the quality and contributions of teachers.
"ln a real sense, local management will be the means of revitalising that partnership between parents, school and the community of which Cardinal Hume spoke," said Mr MacGregor.
But Labour's education spokesman Jack Straw supported the cardinal's comments, and said that nearly 13,000 teachers had resigned in the four months before Christmas.
In his speech, the cardinal drew attention to the many stresses which he said were caused by the current education system. "Pressures in schools created by the demands of examinations, the new National Curriculum and the regular testing of pupils encourages the tendency to place increasing emphasis on certain kinds of learning and the acquisition of specific skills," he said.
"It can deaden creativity, neglect human and affective growth and lead to a somewhat lopsided education effort.
"That kind of distortion does now show up in examination results, but are felt later in emotional and spiritual deprivation and sometimes in anti-social behaviour," he said.