by Christopher Howse A SERIOUS threat to the future of Catholic education in Britain is posed by Sir Keith Joseph's decision to end teacher training at De La Salle College, Manchester, according to the College Principal, Brother Wilfred.
Sir Keith's decision to uphold his earlier ruling that teacher training should be axed at the college contains a new factor in the reasons he gives. This rejects the so-called "historic share" of Catholic teacher training in the national provision.
This week, a bitterly disappointed Brother Wilfred said: "The Secretary of State is saying that he has the right to write off support for Catholic colleges without consultation. It is not just a question of fighting the De La Salle decision, but it is the whole national issue."
It had been understood that Catholic voluntary schools and colleges should receive support in proportion to the numbers of Catholics in the population at large. But Sir Keith rejects any principle which binds the Government to an immutable system of support.
In a letter to Bishop Holland of Salford, chairman of the College Governors, Sir Keith says: "I cannot accept a claimed right to any immutable percentage of public sector training places. The contribution of the Catholic colleges must be subject to adjustment to take account of the changing policies of successive governments and the underlying developments in society and education."
Archbishop Derck Worlock, the Metropolitan of the Northern Province, in which the college lies, sent a message from Rome, where he is attending the Synod of Bishops, deploring the decision. "This is , dreadfully disappointing and would be a particularly hard blow to the Catholics of the North West. The bishops and the Government Body of the College will have to consider very carefully what further steps to take," he said.
The bishops had met with Sir Keith Joseph in July. On the basis of an understanding that he accepted the arguments of the Catholic authorities, the College Governors withdrew their legal action against the earlier closure decision. "But it would appear the bishops have lost out. It is a bitter blow to discover that our optimism was misplaced," Brother Wilfrid said.
Bishop Holland commented: "The minister has faithfully fulfilled his promise of a complete review. He has the good grace to realise his decision causes great pain. No criticism of the College emerges. His decision rests on considerations of finance, over-provision and new trends in the field of teacher training.'' Sir Keith professed a
continuing support for the dual system of state and voluntary education in his letter to Bishop Holland. But the Bishop replied:
"Against his explicit commitment to the dual system, we shall have to weigh carefully his remarks on the 'historic share' and his silence on future consultation. The Governing Body of De La Salle College will meet next week to consider what steps are now to be taken."
On the wider issue, Brother
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