This year, the 10th of September marks the celebration of Education Sunday for the Church in England and Wales.
In our prayer intentions, we will ask Almighty God to bless all people involved in Catholic education, and to bless the year ahead.
The resources provided to schools and to parishes focus on the promise given by Jesus in St Matthew’s Gospel: Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them (Matthew 18:20).
As students and staff gather for Education Sunday, they can take these words to heart, for our Lord Jesus Christ always keeps His promise: you are gathered together in His name and He is with you as you work, learn, pray, grow and live out your mission.
The great desire of Jesus is to be with us and to invite us to enter into a personal relationship with Him, a relationship of love. When a person knows they are truly loved, a new confidence abounds.
The mission of our Catholic schools, colleges and universities is to provide a holistic education which enables the lives of children and young people to flourish and for them to be formed into the men and women that God the Father has created them to be.
We owe much gratitude to all those who have governed, led, taught and supported the children and young people in our Catholic schools, colleges and universities over the years, and those who continue to create the environments and opportunities for a loving encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Since the 19th century the Catholic Church has become the country’s largest provider of secondary schools and second-largest provider of primary schools. They now outperform national averages for GCSE English, Maths and Religious Education results, while taking in more pupils from the most deprived backgrounds.
On Education Sunday, as we gather in the name of the Lord Jesus and have confidence that He is with us as He promised, let us give thanks to Almighty God for all the ways He has been present to us amidst the joys and sorrows of our life. Let us invite Him to be with us over the coming academic year.
The Right Reverend Marcus Stock MA, STL
Bishop of Leeds
Chairman of the Catholic Education Service
The CES and Ten Ten Resources have produced free, downloadable Education Sunday resources for use by schools and parishes.
Are you looking for a way to live out your faith and serve your local community at the same time?
On 10 September Catholics across England and Wales will give thanks for Catholic schools, colleges and universities, and all those who have found their vocation in Catholic education.
Since the 19th century the Catholic Church has become the country’s largest provider of secondary schools and second-largest of primary schools, along with four universities – but now they need your help.
Educational institutions are generally governed by a body made up of different types of representatives, such as parent governors and teacher governors.
Catholic schools and universities also include foundation governors, who volunteer to ensure the Catholic vision and character of the school is upheld. Appointed on behalf of the Bishop, foundation governors should always form a majority.
Since the pandemic Catholic educational institutions have experienced vacancies for foundation governors, and more are needed to sustain their Catholic ethos and leadership.
Paul Barber, Catholic Education Service Director, said: “As throughout history, Catholics must be prepared to support, promote and defend Catholic education.
“Practising Catholics could make excellent foundation governors, or know someone who might be interested, so please find out about getting involved by contacting your diocese.”
Foundation governors come from all walks of life, bringing a mix of skills, knowledge and experience. Catholic school pupils in England and in Wales are from significantly more diverse ethnic minority backgrounds than the state sector, and governing bodies should reflect this.
The main role of a governing body is at a strategic level, holding leadership to account; overseeing financial performance and setting the budget; managing admissions criteria; and being involved in recruiting to the most senior roles.
Being a foundation governor involves attending on average three full governing body meetings per year as well as serving on a committee focusing on issues such as staff pay, or admissions. Free training is provided by the diocese.
The 2,175 schools, colleges and academies in England and Wales continue to be true to their mission, by educating more pupils from the most deprived backgrounds, and also outperform national GCSE English, Maths and Religious Education averages.
Foundation governors are also needed for Catholic higher education, at Leeds Trinity, Liverpool Hope, Newman and St Mary’s universities.
Liverpool Hope is one of four Catholic universities in England, and on 13 July held an inauguration ceremony at the city’s Metropolitan Cathedral for its new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Claire Ozanne.
With just over 5,000 students, the university is the only such foundation in Europe and the USA where Catholic and Anglican colleges have joined together, and takes its name from Hope Street, which links both of Liverpool’s cathedrals.
Anglican St Katharine’s College was founded in 1844, and Catholic Notre Dame College in 1956, both institutions being created by the Churches in response to the need to train people to educate the poor and disadvantaged. They were joined by Christ’s College of Education, established in 1964 as a centre for Catholic reflection and education.
Professor Ozanne gained her DPhil from Oxford University and her work has focused on habitats influenced by human activities, leading multidisciplinary projects in the UK, Australia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Guyana.
Formerly the Deputy Director and Provost at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, and in 2017 seconded to be Principal at Heythrop College, she was also Vice Provost at the University of Roehampton.
Liverpool Hope’s fourth Vice-Chancellor and Rector is a Professor of Ecology, an early interest born out of walks in the countryside with her family, who encouraged her to explore and ask questions about the natural world, as well as an inspirational school biology teacher and university tutor.
Professor Ozanne said: “I was fortunate to be able to bring together my love of trying to understand how systems work and that of the outdoors – I often describe myself as a ‘muddy boots’ biologist.”
She believes Catholic higher education institutions can play a role in implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care For Our Common Home in several ways.
This includes integrating two of the Laudato Si’ goals, Cry of the Earth and Cry of the Poor, through teaching and research; providing opportunities for students to engage in practical ways of living in harmony with the Laudato Si’ goals and skills to advocate for them when they graduate; and for universities to minimise their footprint on the planet.
“As a field ecologist I am always aware of the interactions between ecosystems and people in terms of resource needs and conservation,” Professor Ozanne said. “We need to provide solutions to the complex problems of stewarding our planet, and championing climate justice.”
The university’s ecumenical ethos is manifested in a connection to qualifications that serve the common good. This is reflected in recognition of the importance of education studies, teaching, health and social sciences, as well as the arts and humanities and their contributions to human flourishing.
Professor Ozanne said: “As vital as STEM subjects are, we need to acknowledge the significance and contribution of theologians, historians, philosophers, writers, composers and many other scholars from the broad range of the arts and humanities subjects.
“We want to enable our students to be ready for the work of the world, as well as the world of work.”
Adapting to challenges
The move to virtual learning during lockdown periods enabled thinking about offering education in different ways, particularly in terms of international, postgraduate education or professional development where there are opportunities for more flexible, hybrid and on-line learning.
There have also been longer-term effects on how research is conducted, with opportunities for new methodologies and international partnerships.
Professor Ozanne said: “All universities are challenged by the increased marketisation of higher education, our Catholic universities in England are relatively small and so not able to take advantage of the economies of scale of large universities.
“Catholic universities in the UK have also to rise to the challenges of increasing secularisation, and a diminishing knowledge base and points of reference related to faith and church in our communities.”
Liverpool Hope is one of three universities within the world-famous city, and its areas of research strength in the humanities, environmental sustainability, Artificial Intelligence and future technologies complement neighbouring institutions John Moores and the University of Liverpool.
Local and regional Catholic primary, secondary schools and colleges are partners with Liverpool Hope’s School of Education. They support trainee teachers on the university's initial teacher training programmes, providing high quality mentors and rich, formative learning experiences.
The university also works to support the Archbishop’s and Bishops' vision for multi-academy trusts, with representation on director and governing boards, and with research supporting Diaconal training, liturgical and children’s music. It also facilitates a local choir, gardening groups and works with residents’ associations and churches to support community activities, as well as businesses and charities for the improvement of the Liverpool City Region.
Undergraduate and postgraduate international students come for full degrees or a semester abroad experience, some because of its Catholic roots and ecumenical ethos. They also come to the university from global partner institutions with Christian foundations and similar commitments to student-centred education and support.
Professor Ozanne said: “I believe that many choose Liverpool Hope because of its true sense of community.
“We are a university that knows its students by name. We are a smaller university than our fellow higher education institutions and this, combined with our ethos of educating students in the round means that we offer students a personalised educational experience that includes any academic or pastoral support that they need to get the most out of their time at university.”
Ultimately, the new Vice-Chancellor's vision for the university is of a transformational education for students, continuing its excellent research into providing solutions to local and global challenges. It is also as an anchor institution in the North West, contributing to the development of a skilled, future-ready workforce, and for partnerships nationally and internationally to realise a more equitable society.
She said: “At Liverpool Hope I also want to ensure that our values of faith, hope and charity, our strong sense of community and our ethos of educating and developing the whole person are embedded in what we do.”
Free new RE resources have been published to help teach sixth form students about the call to holiness.
The optional Core RE Vocation module has been produced by the National Office for Vocation (NOV) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
The resources include:
a staff handbook of seven structured lessons
Lessons are based around the themes of vocation and discernment; the call to serve; marriage; the holy orders of Deacon, Priesthood and Bishop; consecrated religious life; a guest speaker; and assessment.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, NOV Chair, said: “The Call to Holiness’ is heard at different moments in a person’s life and its response takes different forms. For some it may be a lifelong commitment to religious life or priesthood but for others it may be in the married or single life, in teaching, the caring professions or in the world of law and business, or a combination of these.
"But the ‘Call to Holiness’ is universal and applies to everyone no matter what path in life they choose.”
St Mary’s University, in Twickenham, is one of England’s four Catholic higher education institutions and was founded in 1850 by a precursor of the CES.
Today St Mary’s welcomes 6,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, including 800 from abroad, across a range of disciplines. It’s also rated as fifth in the country for teaching quality, and in the top ten for overall student experience by national university guides.
Anthony McClaran was appointed Vice-Chancellor in 2020 after serving in higher education leadership roles including as Chief Executive of UCAS; Australia’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency; the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency; and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire.
In 2021 he was appointed by Pope Francis to AVEPRO, the Holy See’s quality assurance agency for the awarding of ecclesiastical degrees.
As Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of St Mary’s, Anthony is answerable to its Board of Governors and is responsible for leadership, strategic direction and the overall coordination of the university to achieve its aims. Part of the role is being its external face, for partners, stakeholders, members of the Church, and more.
He said: “The day-to-day description is incredible variety; it might be a letter from a parent or a message from an alumnus, or we recently hosted the Bishop of Oslo, and the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop - just enormous variety, which is part of the fascination of the job.”
Belonging to the broad Catholic family is important for the small but growing Catholic university sector in this country, helping to support international partnerships in research, conferences and student placements. St Mary’s is a member of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, the US-based Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and the Federation of European Catholic Universities.
Anthony said: “It's encouraging - you get a strong sense of the universal nature of the Church and can learn lessons from the experiences of colleagues in very different settings. For instance, I attended a development meeting for leaders of Catholic universities with colleagues from South America, Africa, North America, other parts of Europe, and Europeans were in the minority.
“Exposure to the richness and diversity of the Catholic world is really helpful, it gives you a confidence in your mission and in what you're trying to achieve in terms of Catholic higher education.
“We want to be a leading Catholic university, for London and the world, as we're very conscious that being in London we’re in a global city and that has huge benefits in terms of attracting international students. Our Catholic identity is very important as an inclusive identity; we see it as a point of connection with the world not a point of separation.”
Ancient and modern
Despite appearing a relatively new phenomenon, Catholic universities in England stretch back to the mediaeval era, when most of them were established by the papacy or religious orders. Anthony acknowledges the deep history of Catholic education, with the earliest European universities in the service of the Church, and in pursuit of the humane and liberal areas of study. He cites St John Henry Newman as another and more recent influence on Catholic universities, with the Cardinal’s articulation of the idea of a university as a place for the formation of the whole person.
Anthony said: “That means a commitment to a breadth of knowledge, in the context of a very strong commitment to forming the whole person, to seeing higher education not simply in instrumental terms but also in terms of the development of character, and an approach which understands the place of ethics within higher education.
“One of the key developers of artificial intelligence, who's now really worried about the way which that may go, was saying recently that no one's teaching ethics in AI or computing science. I think a Catholic university should have an ethical approach across the curriculum.
“The strength of the tradition we're drawing on is that ethics matter, the virtues matter, character development matters. We prepare our students to be highly employable - and to make a significant impact on the society in which they will be employed.”
This emphasis on ethics is put into practice at the university, which is also home to research initiatives for some of society’s most contemporary and controversial issues. In 2015 the Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse was opened, named after the Sudanese former slave St Josephine Bakhita, which works with government departments and charities. St Mary’s alumnus Sir Mo Farah, a campaigner against human trafficking and modern slavery and a victim of these crimes, was recently made a patron. The Centre for the Art of Dying Well also has its premises on campus, exploring practical matters such as palliative care and support during grief.
Anthony said: “Someone in our institute of education said to me a little while ago that they reckoned about half the heads and deputy heads of Catholic schools in Greater London had been trained at St Mary's. While that’s anecdotal, there are St Mary's teaching graduates widely across the Catholic school system and those links with Catholic schools remain incredibly important for trainee teacher placements.”
The university’s bond with the capital is further born out in membership of the South London Partnership, an alliance of boroughs to promote economic growth and sustainability. Students participate in work placements with local businesses, while St Mary’s also runs the Exchange Theatre in Twickenham on behalf of fellow partnership member Richmond Council, and supports arts festivals in the area.
Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of Catholic and faith life in the university, from a very active chaplaincy to Masses held twice a day on campus, and there are Catholic, Christian and Islamic student societies. In 2016 the Sisters of Assumption opened a new community at the invitation of St Mary’s, to be a praying presence, and to arrange services such as evening prayer adoration. Pentecost celebrations have also taken place on site organised by members of Loretto HOME, a nearby Christian community where some students are residents.
The university also administers the diaconate programme for dioceses in the South of England, and is home to Mater Ecclesiae College, a Pontifical institute and seminary. Further afield, at the request of the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, St Mary’s runs theology courses at the Gillis Centre in the Scottish capital.
In conclusion, and as demonstrated by its high-scoring national leaderboard positions, the university is clearly well-regarded by that most critical of audiences, those who choose to study there. For the Vice-Chancellor this is underpinned by belief, and a principle of service for all.
Anthony said: “Drawing on our Catholicism helps us to be a good university, in terms of serving our students, a good university in terms of academic achievement and outcomes. There's a really strong commitment to providing strong support for our students, because we believe that's the way in which they are going to learn most effectively.
“Those qualities are really the gift of a Catholic approach to higher education - not just for Catholics, but for everybody who studies here.”
The Dicastery for Culture and Education has been formally presented with the new Religious Education Directory for Catholic schools in England and Wales.
Monsignor Giovanni Cesare Pagazzi, Secretary of the Dicastery, welcomed the new directory at his office on 29 March, along with the Rt Rev Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth; CES Director Paul Barber; Religious Education Adviser Philip Robinson; and Senior Policy and Education Adviser Dr Nancy Walbank.
Titled To Know You More Clearly, the directory covers Foundation Stage to Year 9 with a programme of study and model curriculum, replacing previous editions published in 1996 and 2012. It was drafted to reflect the 2022 Instruction by the Dicastery titled The Identity Of The Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue.
Topics covered in To Know You More Clearly include the relationship between faith and science; the problem of evil; nature of human freedom; rights of the unborn; plight of refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.
There is also a focus on the beauty of Catholicism and its influence on culture through art, music, literature, science, and architecture, equipping young people to engage with the Church beyond intellectual remits, and approach the transcendent.
Paul Barber, Director of the CES, said: “This amendment secures important legislative protections for Church academies similar to those that exist for maintained schools, and is a welcome measure to safeguard the charitable purpose of school land.
"The Catholic Church is the biggest provider of secondary education and second largest provider of primary schools, with nearly 850,000 pupils. With thanks to the Government this legislation will help ensure the Church’s mission in education is protected as schools move toward a multi-academy trust model.”
As one of England’s four Catholic universities, Leeds Trinity was founded in 1966 originally in the form of two teacher training colleges, run by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion and by a forerunner of the Catholic Education Service.
Professor Charles Egbu was appointed as Vice-Chancellor in 2020, amid new Covid variants, lockdowns, and the widespread adoption of online teaching by universities.
A practising Catholic, he had originally planned to study as a medical doctor, but when his father died he realised he needed to study nearby instead and support his mother and other siblings.
He ended up applying for a course in quantity surveying at what is now Leeds Beckett University, achieving a 1st class Honours degree.
After a stint working on construction sites he returned for a Master’s degree in the built environment, then a PhD in construction management at Salford University, and over the course of the next two decades ascended to senior leadership positions in various higher education institutions.
The year before his appointment to Leeds Trinity Professor Egbu served as President of the Chartered Institute of Building, and was recently announced as an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Institute of British Architects.
He acknowledges the significant changes in higher education that pandemic-led online teaching has brought about, that it has enabled a greater flexibility for personalised learning, at a time and place convenient for example to mature students, that students can in effect be remotely supported wherever they are. However, as universities emerge from the pandemic, this has also meant reintroducing an element of in-person learning.
“We’re now trying to bring them back,” Professor Egbu said, “it’s been challenging for certain of our students, work-based learning students would still want to come in one day a week, though those who have caring responsibilities, caring for the elderly, sick, or disabled, who have childcare issues would want to stay where they are.
“There are a lot of benefits, but also challenges in trying to make sure that students really understand what it is to come in, to understand the culture of the university, and work face-to-face with their peers.”
Diversity in leadership
Three years after his appointment, across UK higher education Professor Egbu remains the only black Vice-Chancellor. He said that while there had been an increase in the proportion of undergraduate students from ethnic minorities in recent decades, for instance increasing 24% to 27% in the five years to 2020, a degree award gap has held steady. He added that more students from ethnic minorities drop out from their courses, and are 13% less likely to achieve a good degree grade than their white counterparts.
He said: “Very few from minority communities get into graduate jobs, and it becomes more telling when you look at senior positions, only 0.7% of professors in the UK are black professors, very few people are able to get into a Dean’s position or Pro-Vice Chancellor. The reason is simple, the pipeline is not coming through, by the time you get into that sphere there are very few black people, and also very few people of disability.
“My university is doing quite a lot because we are a university that believes in social justice, in the issue of recruitment, career promotion, mentoring and coaching, but there’s more that everyone has to do to improve this position.”
Catholic higher education
Leeds Trinity, along with England’s three other Catholic universities, Liverpool Hope, Newman, and St Mary’s, was originally set up to train teachers, especially to teach at schools in less privileged areas.
Today, teachers continue to graduate from the university, while the mission has expanded in the form of the university’s social justice framework, and with the appointment of Dr Ann Marie Mealey in November last year as Director of Catholic Mission. She is devising the university’s Catholic mission strategy based on Catholic social justice and social teaching, and has established initiatives such as a series of free online lectures on Catholic approaches to issues such as policing, economics and art, and curated an annual conference on Catholic higher education. Dr Mealey is also setting up continuing professional development sessions for time-pressed local schoolteachers, and supporting the virtues-based Stella Maris Leadership Awards scheme run by nearby Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College.
Professor Egbu said: “Fundamentally my Catholic upbringing, that wherever you are you must give more than you get, has meant me trying to support those who are less privileged or who struggle to get into academia. I’ve made it a point of duty to always bring to universities what I call widening participation, for people who are struggling to get there — once they’ve got the promise, and the opportunity, we need to realise their potential.”
However, while many aspects of the university’s Catholic life are flourishing, Professor Egbu said, issues remain for the sector as a whole. “Many of us as Catholic universities are struggling,” he said, “because in a secular society those things that stood us well in the past perhaps are becoming a challenge. In the past if you asked somebody why they came they would say because of the philosophy and ethics, the Catholic mission and Catholic teachings. Very few people are now coming to the university to do this.”
Global family, local mission
Leeds Trinity has recently become a full member of the US-based Catholic Health Association, ahead of plans to introduce nursing degrees next year. Partnerships are also being established through membership of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, and in Latin America. As a result, the number of international students is expected to grow significantly. A year ago there were only 15 international students, at present there are 80, but in the next three years the total is expected to rise to 500.
“We know that many students benefit greatly from being able to travel across the world between Catholic universities,” Professor Egbu said, “so it’s a now new strategic ambition to grow this, prior to that we’ve always been a localised university.”
Closer to home in Leeds, the university is also set to expand its campus estate. A property in the city centre has recently been acquired, with plans to open additional facilities including student support services and a Catholic chaplaincy.
A Catholic approach
Through championing Catholic virtues, with inclusivity and dignity, the university’s aim is to develop well-rounded, resilient students who are sought after by employers, and which is what Professor Egbu believes differentiates Catholic higher education.
“We are obliged to make sure we transform their lives because we’ve seen the potential,” he said. “Not many universities can say that! Once you are in our university we want to develop the wholeness in you, through volunteering, support work in the community, coaching, mentoring, the wider social justice, so you can begin to picture yourself when you are out there, how you can contribute to a challenging world, and you are prepared for that.”
Ultimately, the Leeds Trinity Vice-Chancellor hopes graduates cherish their university experience and maintain its values, of being supportive in any environment they find themselves in, giving everybody an opportunity and, ultimately, seeing Lord Jesus in everyone.
“It’s not antagonistic to how the world is changing, indeed it’s part and parcel of a very challenging world — with the centrality of care and compassion and innovation at the heart of it.”
Amid a national Religious Education (RE) teacher shortage we welcome The Bloom Review and its clear evidence that RE is vital for children and young people to learn.
RE is the core of the core curriculum and Catholic schools dedicate at least 10% of the timetable to this essential subject, while the Church’s RE curriculum and inspection framework are recognised as models of best practice.
There are 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies across England and Wales, representing just under 10% of state education. Catholic pupils achieve the highest GCSE RE results in the country, and represent a quarter of all entrants. The past year has seen the launch of a new RE curriculum and national inspection framework to ensure that the quality of RE in all Catholic schools remains high. We are happy to share our Catholic approach to ensuring high quality RE to help improve RE teaching as a whole.
The Catholic Education Service is committed to continued working with the Government in support of Catholic education, high-quality RE and increased religious literacy in the Government and the wider public sector.