BY CHRISTINA WHITE A LEADING Catholic publisher has attacked the "squalid infighting and politicking" which has greeted the launch of its new
Religious Education programme.
Fergal Martin, general secretary of the Catholic Truth Society, said there was "overwhelming evidence" that the distribution of the Society's new Key Stage Two programme for primary schools, The Way, the Truth and the Life (WTL), was being deliberately suppressed in Catholic schools.
The resource, which was officially launched in London in June, follows the RE syllabus through from Primary to Secondary school and is in line with Catholic teaching and c,atechesis. The textbooks have the support of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, chairman of the Catholic Education Service and Archbishop Peter Smith, chairman of CTS.
The majority of Catholic primary schools in England and Wales use the nationally recommended programme Here I Am. Canon Peter Humphrey, national RE adviser said schools were free to use the CTS programme as an "additional" resource to the national programme, but not instead of it.
But it emerged last week that some teachers were being told not to use the new CTS resource and books were returned to the publisher unopened. A spokesman for Westminster archdiocese, which has been accused of suppressing the CTS material, said Here I Am was "the most appropriate programme for the needs of our children at this time".
'The programme was recommended as a national project of the bishops' conference and is continually being updated and reviewed. It continues to give great results," the spokesman said.
The Catholic Herald has learned that a meeting is now planned between the CTS, Bishop George Stack, chairman of education and formation for Westminster, and Rita Price, the diocesan director of religious education and inspection, to discuss the problem and the issues raised.
Mr Martin said he would be attending, but felt it was important that the issues were debated "widely and in public".
The CTS maintains that opposition to WIZ, flies in the face of key policy documents, such as the RE Curriculum Directory and more recently the bishops' statement on Religious Education in Catholic Schools.
"My deepest concern is that this important debate is conducted at the level it deserves. The issue issimple. The professional capacity of teachers and the rights of school governors to choose resources for their schools should not be interfered with. Any addition to the pool of resources should be judged on its merits," said Mr Martin.
He added: "This squalid infighting and politicking is sadly inevitable. But the debate needs to be aired about the freedom and availability of good resources — we're looking simply to improve the standard of RE in schools."
He said the CTS had received telephone calls from teachers around the country angry that they were being denied the right to choose their own programme.
"It's hit a nerve. On what grounds and for what benefit should the national programme be imposed on all schools across the country? Teachers are not saying its rubbish they're just saying why on earth can't we choose," said Mr Martin said.
In a statement, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, who was present at the CTS launch last month, reaffimied his strong support for the programme.
He said: "It is clear, direct and user-friendly for teacher and pupil alike. Based on the RE Curriculum Directory published by the bishops' conference, it will be welcomed by many teachers as a valuable resource."
"I am pleased that our Catholic community is producing a variety of high-quality RE programmes," the archbishop added.
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