From Caroline Jordan SIR – I have not heard anyone involved in the row over the composition of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School’s governing body dispute that parents in the school are strongly committed to upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church in the school. In that case, why did the Diocese of Westminster not avoid all the fuss and expense of two court cases and simply appoint two current parents as foundation governors when the term of the last two expired?
The dissenting Appeal Court judge, Sir Richard Buxton, seemed to ask the same question in his judgment, but, so far as I know, the diocese has failed to answer it. “Because it was not legally obliged to” (even if that is the case) is not an answer.
Yours faithfully, CAROLINE JORDAN By email From Mrs Mary King SIR – The Vaughan Parents’Action Group (VPAG) is concerned that the statement on the diocesan website regarding the recent judgment about the governance at Cardinal Vaughan contains a number of inaccuracies. We have notified the diocese of these inaccuracies. In particular, we would like to point out the following.
The funds for the parent governors’ action were raised by voluntary donations from parents, pupils and friends of the school. In contrast, the diocese’s legal funding came from lay Catholics across the diocese.
The VPAG is a properly constituted subcommittee of the Vaughan Parents’ Association and enjoys the overwhelming support of the school’s parents and pupils. The Vaughan’s former headmaster and the former chairman of governors are patrons of the VPAG, not leaders. Over 1,500 people recently signed a petition supporting the VPAG’s aims and opposing the diocese’s actions, and around 1,000 people have attended two prayer vigils organised by the VPAG .
Staff of the school are employed by the diocesan-dominated governing body. They support neither side publicly.
The 2007 legislation says that a third of a governing body should be made up of parents. The Vaughan has only five parents out of 20 on the governing body and we therefore still believe current parents will not be “fully represented” on the governing body.
We are disappointed with the court ruling, but we note that one judge agreed with our interpretation and all three appeal judges felt that the wording dealing with the appointment of foundation governors is not clear. The VPAG will lobby Michael Gove to clarify this point.
Yours faithfully, MARY KING By email From Mrs Sarah Johnson SIR – The Diocese of Westminster is hailing the Appeal Court ruling against the parent governors of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School as some kind of triumph.
So, from a Vaughan parent, here are a few unpleasant facts for your readers.
The guidelines which stipulated that two of the school’s foundation governors should be current parents were quietly removed from the diocesan website during the dispute.
One of the three appeal court judges upheld the parent governors’ complaint; all three agreed that the diocese had wasted public funds, using the contributions of lay Catholics to pay legal fees. The parent governors used their own money and that of friends and supporters, given willingly.
The diocese still has not explained what became of the proceeds of the sale of a valuable property, 31 Holland Park Gardens, which was originally part of the school. I appeal to the diocese to stop this vindictive charade. It cannot, in the 21st century, run a school without the support of the parent body. The archbishop has never visited this school even though it is one of the highestachieving in the country. It is time he paid it a visit to see for himself what his advisers have persuaded him should be destroyed. He teaches that parents are the primary educators of children: he must begin to listen to them.
Dr Oona Stannard said last week: “It wouldn’t be conducive to good relationships and good harmony if Catholic families who have contributed significantly [to Church life] were to find they watch others take up places that they have much wanted.” We applaud Dr Stannard’s remarks, but her views seem to be completely at odds with the policy which the Diocese of Westminster seeks to impose on the Vaughan. That policy would mean that practising, active Catholic families would see Vaughan places taken by families with far looser ties to the Church – simply because of their good fortune in living in or close to London W14. Dr Stannard seems well aware of the dismay this will cause – it is a shame the diocese’s own advisers do not share her good sense.
Yours faithfully, SARAH JOHNSON London W12 From Mrs Margaret Galea SIR – Isn’t it time that the Diocese of Westminster learned the lesson – as successive governments have learnt the hard way – that the way to improve bad schools is not to destroy successful ones? After it has finished dealing with the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, who will be next? Not, please, the London Oratory.
Yours faithfully, MARGARET GALEA By email