IREFER to the letter entitled A "Draining Dry of a Minority" (April 23) signed "Catholic Parent". As a Catholic parent of five children I can understand misapprehension concerning the financial burden upon the Catholic minority. but the eternal values of Catholic education and the, now considerable, state assistance should reduce the anxiety of the Catholic parent. In fact, the Italian Community of Bedford make a considerable annual financial per capita contribution to the cost of St. Gregory's School.
As some of your readers will think that the letter referred to the Catholic Secondary School of which I am headmaster I wish to record the following facts.
It is alleged that this Secondary School is regarded as a last resort by parents whose children fail to be selected for one of the State grammar schools. At meetings of parents. we see no signs of despondency nor melancholy; indeed the evidence is always to the contrary. As a product of the tripartite system of education the school is restricted to some extent, as are all Secondary Modern Schools, by its facilities and pupil intake and in particular by the extensive number of Grammar School places in Bedford.
This year we have pupils who have "passed" the 11+ Examination and have been offered places at the non-Catholic grammar schools. We have approximately 100 pupil places a year and for the past six years the Governors have received between 150 and 220 applications a year from Catholic parents in the area who wish their children to attend this School. The School is in fact three-form entry when it could easily be five-year entry, if more accommodation was available. I think this alone invalidates the statement that the School compares unfavourably with its contemporaries in the State system.
The School is equipped entirely by the Local Education Authority and therefore is completely comparable with the five other Secondary Modern Schools in the arca. challenge the author of this letter to name one item of equipment which has been granted to another Secondary School in the area and has not been given to this School. This Authority is most generous and fair to this School providing equipment. furniture.\ apparatus of all kinds and staffing ratios. The staffing ratio is certainly equal to the five Secondary Modern Schools in the Borough.
During the past five years the Authority has spent over seven hundred pounds upon the Commercial Department. We have also been granted several expensive items of equipment including an overhead projector, a Photostat copying machine. a 3in. Oscilloscope. a gas chromatograph, an 8mm projector and camera, a horizontal viceroy sharpener. an electric potter's wheel and a deep freeze for the Home Economics Department. The school has highly organised and successful Commercial, Technical Drawing and Home Economics departments and will shortly have a second science laboratory and a metalwork room. All the teachers on the Stall are fully qualified and forty per cent are trained university graduates. One member of the full time staff is a priest and we have two highly qualified and experienced members of the Daughters of the Holy Ghost. I would be very surprised if there were many similar Secondary Modern Schools in the Country which could boast such a highly qualified staff. I find the comments of this Catholic who chooses to remain anonymous, somewhat contemptible; one wonders what the author could possibly mean by "poorly staffed."
The School enters pupils successfully for most academic subjects to G.C.E. '0' Level. C.S.E, and several Commercial Examination Boards. The success ratio is well within that of other local secondary modern schools. Therefore the observation upon the standard of scholarship is hardly worthy of serious consideration.
We have all learned from the tripartite system that it is better for a pupil to be top of the Secondary Modern School than struggling in the lower "remove" classes of the Grammar School. One pupil left St. Gregory's with six G.C.E. '0' Level passes, passed his O.N.C., obtained his B.Sc. Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering and this month is sitting for his M.Sc. in Diesel Engine Design. Many of St. Gregory's pupils in recent years attained seven subjects in C.S.E. and five subjects at G,C.E. '0' Level.
Without doubt the Catholic School needs the assistance and encouragement from the ideal Catholic home where. from the cradle, the Faith is nourished: where family prayers. frequent Mass and Spiritual guidance arc part of the every day lives of the children. The Catholic School presents' a special spiritual environment and religious educapliroonviidvehich the home could never True education in the widest sense must present the child with religious truths of life. 'The
the reli Catholic home could not hope to provide the religious education together with the religious philosophy which pervades the whole curriculum of a Catholic School. The ideal education for the Catholic child is the good Catholic home working together with the Catholic School. Both are sources of the Faith and complement one another. The Catholic School is an apostolic unit helping the family to become more and more fully committed to Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, I would like to state how distasteful it is for me to write a letter of this kind. The Governors of the School arc very concerned for the welfare of the Catholic pupils of Bedford.
P. Robinson Headmaster, St. Gregory's R.C. School, Bedford.