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lower standards of Catholic schools are most obvious in the technical subjects. The need was for more Catholic teachers specialising in woodwork, metalwork and the various handcrafts.
There is, he said, a tendency in the right direction already. But one head said that, as matters stand, Inspectors arrive at Catholic schools expecting the worst.
Some of the heads urged more Catholic grammar places, and were prepared to sacrifice some of the emphasis on "luxurious secondary modern" establishments. Again, in relation to standards, it was argued to me that a well run Catholic school with a good atmosphere ought not to shrink from taking on a non-Catholic teacher.
A suggestion that a Catholic who is second-best from the professional point of view ought to be preferred to a first-rate nonCatholic met with strong objections.
Most heads agreed that, given a sufficiency of places, the Catholic child from a non-practising home should, in general, be given his chance In a Catholic school. Given
the existing shortage of places,
however, it was argued that preference should be given to children from practising homes.
Arguments in support of this principle were as follows:
1. There are too many children chasing too few places. Examples included schools where 300 applicants tried for 170 places; 160 for 90 places; and 185 for 96 places. In many areas there are twice as many applicants as vacancies.
2. There is little that a teacher can do if the home is unsound. The parental almost always defeats the school influence. How can the school be an " extension " of the "Catholic home". when the home in question has no Catholic life?
3. To take non-practising children means excluding some who are practising. This is unfair. It is the practising home which pays for the Catholic schools, and should therefore have first preference.
4. At secondary level, advice as to who is practising and who is not may be obtained from heads of primary schools and from parish priests, A number of muffler-arguments were raised as follows: 1. How do you define a "practisin.g" person or home? At infant level, how can you make any sort of selection among five-year-olds? What you are really doing is to select the parents, not the children.
2. Generally speaking, to refuse a child a Catholic school place may mean that you are cutting him off for ever from the knowledge of the faith and the grace of the sacraments.
3. This may also have a disastrous effect on parents who, though not practising, hang on to their faith in the hope that "it will all work out one day", and really want their children to get Catholic education.
4. The effect of Catholic education upon non-practising children may have long term effects in later life. Some children from nonpractising homes are themselves excellent Catholics (examples were given of several children, including a bead girl, and another who became a nun).
5. The school is a point of contact for the Church with lapsed ,pa rents. Many come back to the
sacraments . when their children receive first communion.
6. The Catholic school is the only chance that many children will have of learning the faith. Many parents are quite unable to teach. Many infants, at five years old. do not know even the sign of the cross or a single prayer.
The meeting discussed statements on "what is Catholic Education?" by Bishop Beck, Bishop Cashman, Canon Crowley. Bro. Leo Barrington. Mr. T. Casey, Mr. John Drum, Mr, K, B. Rowell. Mother Eugene Ryan, Mr. C. II. Shell!, and Fr. B. J. Swindells, S.J. All stressed the importance of producing an integrated personality, conscious of God in all aspects of His truth and creation.
Leading statements on the selection of Catholic pupils were presented by Miss Finn (for Infants' Schools), Mr. L. E. T. Bradbury (Junior Schools). Mr. W. T. Timmons (Secondary Schools), and Dom G. G. Brown (Independent and Grammar Schools). The conference was organised by Mr. J. Rudden. headmaster of the Bishop Grant School at Streatham.