John O'Leary reports on Bishop Challoner School in Kent and its unusual history.
BISHOP Challoner School, set in a semi-rural area in Shortlands, Kent, is an unusual Catholic school in that it was not founded by a religious order.
The school was, in fact, started by two local parish priests after parishioners in the area expressed an interest in having a Catholic preparatory school nearby. The first pupils arrived in 1946.
Later on, during the 1950s, the school was enlarged to take on older boys, too, up to the age of 18. Today, girls are admitted, though only to the sixth form.
Bishop Challoner is a day school, and most of the families with youngsters there live within 30 miles or so. The original old building, set in its four and a half acres of grounds, now houses the younger boys and new buildings have been put up for the senior school.
Although the school is on a single site for both junior and secondary age groups, the whole school gets together just once a week, for a special assembly. "Most boys automatically go from the junior school into the senior, although they do take an entrance exam at 11," explains head teacher Terence Robinson. The curriculum was, he says, developed from a grammar school-type framework. The national curriculum has been introduced into the junior school and from September will be in operation throughout the senior school as well.
All the usual subjects are offered to GCSE and A. level standard. According to the current edition of The Equitable Schools Book (Macmillan, £10.99) an average of 30 per cent of the upper fifth form pass between one and four subjects at GCSE, while 20 per cent pass between five and seven subjects and 10 per cent pass eight or more subjects.
According to Mr Robinson, music is a strong department in the school and games include rugby, soccer and cricket.
Fencing is apparently especially strong at Bishop Challoner, and Mr Robinson boasts that his pupils have been extremely successful in this. The school also boasts a large and well-equipped gymnasium, a hard court for five-a-side football or tennis, and an attractive playing field. Regular fixtures in football, cricket and athletics are held against other schools_ Computer studies are taken seriously, with a computer club in the junior school and computer studies taught to both GCSE and A level.
The religious ethos is an essential ingredient. The local parish priest chairs the board of governors and one of his curates is the school chaplain.
All pupils in the first three years of the senior school follow the Veritas Christian Way syllabus which attempts to develop in pupils an awareness of their dignity and role in the community. Fourth and fifth years follow the GCSE syllabus which deals with Christianity and its relevance today. Sixth form pupils follow a series of talks and discussions on theology and moral and social issues.
About half the pupils are Catholics. "We don't go in for indoctrination, but no-one who wasn't broadly happy with Catholic ideals and doctrine would send their child here," says Mr Robinson.
"We aim to provide a explains Mr Robinson. is about. We want people to realize there are other things in life apart from academic success," and end all of what school sound academic education, but we don't want it to be thought of as the be all