BY ANDREW M BROWN
THE TWO CATHOLIC schools embarrassed in the government's "naming and shaming" policy towards failing schools have turned their fortunes around in the last six months, the Education and Employment Secretary announced on Monday.
In May, David Blunkett gave 18 schools in England and Wales six months to improve or face closure. Only four are now judged by the Inspector of Schools to have made significant progress. They include the two Catholic schools on the list, St Mary of the Angels Primary School in west London and Our Lady Of Fatima GM School in Liverpool.
The head of governors at St Mary of the Angels, Fr Mark Langham, who succeeded the late Fr Michael Hollings as parish priest, said the "naming" policy which has been criticised by teaching unions as a political stunt created "a feeling of absolute despair".
The acting headmaster, Danny McDonald, said that if the school had closed, "it would have destroyed the community", but conceded that the naming had effected an improvement.
Fr Langham said: "It was a terrifying and traumatic experience but there is now a sense of hope. Standards have improved across the board, and we now see the problems more clearly."
St Mary of the Angels was founded along with the church in 1856, and some of the children come from families who have been associated with the school for several generations.
Fr Langham said he thought poor social conditions may have been partly to blame for the school's bad results. "There has never been a problem with discipline," he said, "but the school's in a poorer part of the parish, there are a lot of one parent families, and a good tranche of the parents wouldn't have English as a first language."
He said Mr McDonald had "contributed enormously". The acting headmaster used government money to "coach" teachers, and the school has now passed eight Ofsted tests, though it remains under "special measures".
Mr McDonald returns to his own, successful, school in the New Year, when St Mary of the Angels will receive a new head teacher.
• PARENTS OF children attending St Bede's College in Manchester were this week buoyed by the vigorous support of Graham Brady MP in their campaign to save a council-funded assisted places scheme for Catholic children.
Graham Brady, the Conservative MP for Aimingham and Sale, said: "This is an excellent school and the Labour Council has no right to limit choice for local Catholic parents when there is not even a cost-saving involved.
"This is a Labour attack on Catholic education, on grammar schools and on the independent sector. It is a typical case of Labour saying one thing and doing another."