Chaplain imageThe first apprenticeship and career pathway for school chaplains and youth ministers is helping resolve difficulties in formation, recruitment and retention.

Many of the 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies in England employ lay chaplains to address the social, emotional and spiritual needs of students and staff. However, lack of career progression and limited pay can result in low numbers of applicants for school chaplain vacancies, stretched between multiple sites, and who then move on to jobs with better prospects.

Tom Baptist, in collaboration with the Diocese of Nottingham Education Service, has highlighted the issue in establishing a career pathway from apprentice level up to a regional chaplaincy director. Within this a lay chaplain support staff post has been created to avoid teaching assistants taking on pastoral duties beyond their role. It provides formal recognition for their work, improved salary, and potential career progression into chaplaincy.

The lay chaplains are supported by the education structure in Nottingham Diocese, with all 84 of its state-funded Catholic schools within three multi-academy trusts (MATs). Consistent pay and conditions are ensured by the diocesan Human Resources Director who oversees all three MATs.

Also working to solve this problem is Susan Elderfield, Chaplaincy Adviser for the Archdiocese of Southwark, where there are 163 Catholic schools. In 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic she approached St Mary’s University, in Twickenham, to set up a Chaplaincy and Youth Ministry Apprenticeship. This resulted in the Education Skills Funding Agency awarding the university training provider status.

The Level 4 apprenticeship promotes a vocational pathway to develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours of chaplains and youth ministers. It pays particular attention to their formation, which has historically suffered due to an overreliance on informal on-the-job training with some support.

The apprenticeship covers a range of topics, including safeguarding, special education needs and disabilities, bereavement, mental health, behaviour management and the skills to support and lead the spiritual, religious and liturgical life of a school. During the programme each apprentice qualifies as a Youth Mental Health First Aider and achieves a Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies.

Apprentice Alexandra Shelton-Bourke described her experience of studying the course as ‘incredible’, and ‘very practical’. She said: “I continue to learn and develop different skills that I would not have learned otherwise. These skills have been valuable during my placement at school when leading a staff liturgy and delivering acts of worship to students.”

As a result of this apprenticeship, Susan said: “In Southwark, a greater number of schools now have access to a chaplain, and the apprentices feel part of a professional support network. This is important for pupils and for the Catholic life and mission of schools.”

The first 15 apprentices are currently on placements in schools and retreat centres across the dioceses of Southwark, Westminster, Nottingham and Birmingham. They come from a range of backgrounds and ages, some straight from school, others graduates and youth workers, and one a former managing director. Recruitment is currently ongoing for the third cohort which will start in January 2024.

Find out more about the School and College Chaplaincy and Youth Ministry apprenticeship

Dr John Patterson at the United NationsLiverpool is a city famous throughout the world, and a Catholic school is making sure the tradition continues in the field of specialist education.

Dr John Patterson (pictured, left), Principal at St Vincent’s School, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, has overseen pupils developing a disability sports toolbox that now helps children in 20 countries across four continents.

He has championed pupils’ leadership skills with an enriched curriculum which has them teaching their international peers in how to use the toolbox, and the Indonesian government has since asked for 70,000 of its social workers to be similarly trained.

The school's pupils have made ceramic Remembrance poppies worn by leaders including then-Prime Minister Theresa May; they have sung for the Queen; and have also been featured in an exhibition by celebrity photographer Rankin for the COP26 climate change summit that took place in Glasgow during 2021.

So how did a lad in oil-stained overalls end up empowering a generation of visually-impaired (VI) young people, both in Britain and beyond? 

Innovating education

John Patterson originally started out as an engineer more than 30 years ago, when his mother supported him to retrain as a teacher at Liverpool Hope, one of four Catholic universities in England. Working in inner city primary schools, he soon designed activities linking sports with technology, eventually returning to Liverpool Hope as Head of PE in teacher training and education.

During this time he completed a Master’s degree and PhD and was then asked by the government to set up a free school, at which he was appointed headteacher. In 2012 Dr Patterson became Principal of St Vincent’s School.

“When the Holy Father calls for the reaching of the marginalised we couldn’t really be reaching a more marginalised group than the visually impaired,” he said, adding that the unemployment rate for adults with visual impairments is around 85%, while they have on average five or six fewer friends than sighted people, contributing to isolation, health and wellbeing issues.

As Principal, Dr Patterson set about encouraging students’ entrepreneurialism, employment skills, creativity, and solidarity with those less fortunate. On Wednesdays pupils choose lessons they feel play to their strengths, including in music, drama, sports, ICT, environmental work, and growing food on the school grounds to use in a student-run café.

“Our Lord asked blind Bartimaeus what he wanted, He didn’t presume,” Dr Patterson said, “So for me it’s a big part of following His lead, giving both voice and choice.”

From the Mersey to the world

At the same time he has made use of an extensive network of contacts built up in the city over the years to open up new opportunities for the school.

Pupils have designed computer games and given presentations to major employers including Capita and cereal producer Kellogg’s, which led to VI-accessible information being added to packaging. An essay on the theme of peace, part of citizenship learning, led to a pupil travelling to New York through Liverpool Lions Club to read out his prize-winning entry at the United Nations headquarters.

“It’s a real encouragement to have their voices heard and included, where so often they’re overlooked,” Dr Patterson said. 

When pupils learned how little equipment VI children in developing countries have, they resolved to help address the situation. With support from Liverpool Hope and John Moores universities they devised the Sightbox, containers of items to assist blind and VI children participating in sport, such as gym kits, a boccia grid and balls, a goalball, pedometer, digital talking watch, and card games in braille.

Through Liverpool Rotary Club Sightboxes have now been delivered to VI schools worldwide including in Pakistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Peru, the Virgin Islands, Indonesia and many more including in Nepal (see image below) .

Sightboxes are now enjoyed by VI children at schools around the world

Rotary representatives say the children are much more independent and confident when they have visited a year after first delivering the Sightboxes. The initiative has been recognised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, and St Vincent’s also sends prescription glasses to children in poorer countries whose eyesight is at risk due to albinism.

The school’s achievements came to the attention of Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald M. Afr. OBE, who was so impressed that he invited the pupils to present their international work at an interfaith forum attended by elders from local mosques and the Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, Mark Blundell.

Cardinal Fitzgerald has since invited the Society of Missionaries of Africa, into which he was ordained in 1961, to partner with the school.

As part of celebrations last year to mark the 250th anniversary of Amazing Grace, St Vincent’s pupils sang at St Peter and St Paul, at Olney, near Milton Keynes. This was the parish church of the hymn’s composer, the Revd John Newton, at which the school had been invited to participate in an event organised by the nearby Cowper and Newton Museum.


These activities count towards the Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award, and some of the students have gone on to secure their Gold DofE and play for England VI teams. The school hosts the mandatory VI teacher training programme with John Moores University, while sighted students from elsewhere in the region are taught by St Vincent’s pupils in how to play disability sports, a concept of ‘reverse inclusion’ to promote leadership.

The success of the school has not gone unnoticed, and Dr Patterson won the Silver Lifetime Achievement category at the Pearson National Teaching Awards 2023 and has been granted the Freedom of the City of Liverpool. He has also written a book on VI for Redemptorist Publications, and contributed to a collection of essays celebrating the life-changing impact of Liverpool Hope University, launched at Lambeth Palace Library.

The city’s Regional Combined Authority has affirmed a task force to assist Dr Patterson in delivering international collaborations, emphasising the contribution of Liverpool to the UK economy and drawing research and development funding to the area.

He said: “It’s all part of our school’s enriched curriculum, to enable, empower and signpost pupils into opportunity and employability, and helping other VI pupils globally, it’s what our pupils wanted to do.

“We’re not blind — we’ve got vision.”

St Vincent’s School was established on its present site in 1901 by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul. It is part of the Catholic Blind Institute and is consistently rated by Ofsted as outstanding.

Find out more


To know You more dearly imageA new Prayer and Liturgy Directory for Catholic schools, colleges and academies in England and Wales has been launched at a conference in York.

The directory was presented to dioceses on 17 October by a host of speakers including Dr Sue Price, Director of Pastoral Outreach at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, and its editors Martin Foster, Director of the Liturgy Office for the Bishops’ Conference; and the Revd Professor Peter McGrail, Subject Lead for Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University.

Titled To love You more dearly and published by the Bishops’ Conference and the CES, it is the first such document to support prayer and liturgy coordinators, senior leadership teams and governors and others in implementing the understanding of the Catholic Church in prayer and liturgy.

Communal prayer forms a major part of the spiritual life of the school and to pupils’ moral and spiritual development, with participants invited to recognise God’s action in their lives and that of the school. For example, this can include classroom prayer at the beginning or end of the day, and prayer at the start of a staff meeting.

The Directory has been approved by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, and was subject to a number of wide-scale consultations with practitioners which helped to shape and develop the text.

In the preface the Most Revd George Stack, Emeritus Archbishop of Cardiff and Chairman of the Department for Christian Life and Worship, and the Rt Revd Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds and Chairman of the Department for Education and Formation, write: “In Catholic schools and colleges across England and Wales, teachers and other adult members of the school community have long supported the life of prayer and liturgy within their schools with imagination and dedication.

“We hope that this directory will affirm what is good practice, while also setting a high bar to which all can aspire.”

Topics covered include the use of music; celebrating sacraments; devotions and more. Sections can also be used to provide focused guidance as follows:

  • in developing school policies and systems
  • in directly planning prayer and liturgy
  • as a focus for evaluating practice
  • in staff formation
  • as reference points for Catholic school inspectors to support their judgments

Part of a series, the document follows on from To know You more clearly, its Religious Education counterpart published earlier this year.

The title of the new Prayer and Liturgy Directory, To love You more dearly, is taken from a prayer by St Richard of Chichester, a Bishop in the 13th century remembered for his generosity to the poor, mercy shown to sinners, and reform of the liturgical life of his diocese.

Supporting resources for schools, based on the directory, are currently being prepared.

To love You more dearly was drafted and edited by experts including Martin Foster, Director of the Liturgy Office for the Bishops’ Conference; the Revd Professor Peter McGrail, Subject Lead for Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University; Philip Robinson, Chief Inspector of the Catholic Schools Inspectorate; Catherine Bryan, Deputy Director of the CES; Dr Nancy Walbank, CES Religious Education Adviser; Elaine Arundell, Primary RE Adviser for the Archdiocese of Westminster, and of the National Board of RE Inspectors and Advisers (NBRIA); Matthew Dell, Senior Lecturer in RE at St Mary’s University, and of Association of Teachers of Catholic Religious Education (ATCRE); Deacon Paul Mannings of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, and of NBRIA; Jane Porter of the Association of Catholic Chaplains in Education (ACCE), and Cardinal Newman School, in Luton; and Peter Ward of NBRIA.

Download and read To love You more dearly or order a hard copy from YPD Books

The new Prayer and Liturgy Directory for Catholic schools, academies and colleges in England and Wales has been published. 

Titled To love You more dearly it is available on the CES website to read or download, while hard copies can also be ordered from YPD Books

Catholic schools educate a much higher proportion of pupils from the most deprived backgrounds than other schools, according to the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI), with ten times the catchment area of local schools so less reflective of immediate localities.

Free school meals are an inaccurate indicator for example, they continue after after household incomes exceed the threshold. Catholic schools welcome children with SEND, and parents will want to choose the school that is best for their children’s needs.

For a child with an EHCP, it is the local authority, not the school, that makes the decision about which school the child will attend, based solely on the child’s needs.

If parents decide that the local mainstream Catholic school is not the best fit for their child’s particular needs, they might instead opt for another school, such as a Catholic special school or a Catholic school approved for SEN pupils, of which there are 26 in England and Wales.  

Catholic schools nationally take 50% more children than other schools from the 10% most deprived areas, and about 25% fewer from the 10% most affluent areas: for IDACI figures see page 53 of the 2022 Census of Catholic schools in England

Columbans Biodiversity Matters schools competition webThe Columban Missionaries in Britain announce the launch of their latest Schools Media Competition 2023-2024 which has the title: ‘Biodiversity Matters’. The launch is during the first week of the Season of Creation when Christian communities around the world focus on valuing and protecting God’s creation. And a core aspect of Columban mission is justice, peace and ecology.

The competition is aimed at students aged between 13-18 years old in Catholic schools who are invited to explore Biodiversity – the richness of life forms on Earth and which humanity relies on for health, food and well-being. It is looking for pieces of writing and images that demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the issue of Biodiversity and highlight people, communities and/or organisations trying to build a sustainable future.

Pope Francis has told us that "because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God ... We have no such right" (Laudato Si' #33)

Columbans worldwide see the devastating impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on people and the environment as interwoven moral issues in need of prophetic responses. Inspiration for action is drawn from the 2015 teaching document by Pope Francis, Laudato Si'.

In his role as Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker in Britain, James Trewby visits young people in schools and sixth forms and runs workshops, retreats and assemblies to promote justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

He said: “I’m delighted that the Columban Schools Media Competition this year focuses on the theme of Biodiversity. In a world of increasing globalisation and environmental degradation, management of biological diversity is one of the most important and critical challenges facing humankind today. The Columbans are keen to nurture the student voice and provide an opportunity for young people to engage with this issue.”

Encouraging creativity and faith engagement with issues in the world today, this year’s competition welcomes both written and image entries until the closing date of 17 February 2024. Winners will be announced on Columban media on 21 March 2024, the International Day of Forests.

Two separate competitions will be judged, one for students in Britain and one for students in Ireland. Cash prizes will be awarded to the winning entrants and the first prize in Britain is an impressive £500.

High-profile judges from the world of journalism have been secured, including Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet and Jo Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News. Also, Catholic experts on environmental protection and education, including Columban eco-theologian Fr Sean McDonagh and environmentalist Mary Colwell.

Winning entries will be published in the Columbans’ Far East magazine, Vocation for Justice newsletter, Columban websites in Ireland and Britain, Columban social media and in other Catholic media.

Schools will find the Columban Competition website a useful resource. It includes information on the theme, examples of Church work on Biodiversity, Catholic Social Teaching on the theme of Biodiversity and information about inspirational Catholics working on the issue. There are also details on submission of entries and a helpful FAQ page. The website provides material suitable for students, teachers and parents.

This is the seventh annual School’s Media Competition. Past themes have included Migrants, Climate Change, Racism, 21st Century Changemakers and Peace.

Find out more

Tuesday, 05 September 2023 08:30

Gathering together for Education Sunday

Bishop Marcus image landscapeThis 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

Foundation governor imageAre you looking for a way to live out your faith and serve your local community at the same time?

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 2,169 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, Birmingham Newman and St Mary’s universities.

To find out more about becoming a school foundation governor please contact your diocese. If you are interested in becoming a governor at a Catholic university please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Professor Claire Ozanne VC Liverpool Hope University webLiverpool 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.”

Campus environment

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.”

Common ground

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.”

Local support

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.”

Equitable future

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.”

Find out more about Liverpool Hope University

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