Wednesday, 31 March 2021 10:13

Leading a culture of teacher excellence

By Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer, Church of England and Paul Barber, Director, Catholic Education Service

Today the Government announces its partner providers for the reformed suite of National Professional Qualifications (NPQ) for teachers and education leaders which launches in the autumn. We are delighted that, among nine national providers, is a new partnership between the Church of England and Catholic Education Service.

The new frameworks for NPQs is an expansive vision for the whole education sector, and we are pleased that the Government has recognised the strengths of our shared vision for children and adults to flourish, and we are enormously excited to be working together at a pivotal moment across the education sector.

Together the Catholic Church and Church of England, run more than a third of all the country’s schools and play a particularly rich role in the wider education landscape. Our delivery of these qualifications will be across all parts of the country, from Northumberland to Cornwall, from Herefordshire to East Anglia. We will be working with a fantastic range of delivery partners – Teaching School Hubs, Multi Academy Trusts and high performing schools – in each region, and we look forward to welcoming many thousands of teachers and leaders onto the suite of NPQ programmes in the coming years.

And our offer is not just for our own schools, but for everyone, with a particular focus on ensuring that rural school leaders can access and benefit from the programmes. At a local level, this will mean exciting new partnerships between schools, MATs and other networks. At a national level, it will enable us to play our full role in investing heavily in the thing we know the evidence shows makes the biggest difference – our core purpose as leaders – leading a culture of teacher excellence.

The new NPQ frameworks are built from a rich, evidence-informed understanding of what works in school leadership, and they create a clear pathway for teachers’ formation over their whole careers. The coherence and clarity of the national roll-out of the Early Career Framework (ECF) reforms, the re-shaping of the Senior Leadership (NPQSL), Headship (NPQH) and Executive Leadership (NPQEL) programmes, and the creation of new specialist qualifications for aspiring school leaders can give us real confidence about a professional development entitlement that works for leaders in all schools – small and large, primary and secondary, rural and urban.

This is a step-change in leadership thinking, which is not seeking simply a more productive workforce, or a deeper academic understanding of research literature. Rather, it is calling back educational leaders to our core purpose – leading a culture of teacher excellence.

Providing these NPQ programmes across the country gives us a unique opportunity to place teacher excellence at the heart of our recovery from the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. This central focus on culture will be key to our delivery, and on every course, every leader will be working closely with an expert coach to explore and plan how to apply knowledge effectively into a variety of contexts.

Whether teaching a mixed-age class in a small rural primary school, or leading a large MAT across a region or nation, our first call in educational leadership is to put teaching first. Although there are many other aspects of our roles, these can sometimes cloud or distract us from this core purpose – to secure the very best teaching experience for every child in our care. And that means leadership built on authenticity, integrity and a renewed sense of vision and purpose.

In 2016, the Church of England published its Vision for Education, articulating a focus on Wisdom, Knowledge & Skills, Hope & Aspiration, Community & Living Well Together and Dignity & Respect. Putting this vision into practice starts with leaders who build a culture of teacher excellence. Similarly, in 2018 the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales commissioned the Formatio initiative to support the development and formation of leaders in Catholic schools. As such it should come as no surprise as to why we are so pleased to be playing our part in the new NPQ landscape.

Creating and sustaining such a culture means we can fully realise our vision for education for every child, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Through pursuing excellence in teaching and working together for the common good, we will be enacting social justice for every community.

BISHOP MARCUS’ CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
Throughout this last year, all of us have had to find ways of supporting our families, communities, schools and parishes during a very stressful time and a period of immense challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted upon the lives of millions of peoples across all nations, cultures and religions. This virus has affected every person and forced us to change the way we live. 
 
For this reason, the season of Advent this year has been for us a time of longing and expectation like no other. We pray for health, wellbeing, and a return to a life free from the restrictions under which we have had to learn to live.
 
Consequently, as this school term and calendar year draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the governing bodies and academy trusts for the strategic lead which you have taken in guiding our schools through this time. I wish to thank our headteachers and school leaders for the incredible day-to-day ministry which you have exercised to keep our schools open and to enable our children and young people to receive the education which is so vital to the flourishing of their current and future lives. I desire to thank too, teachers, learning assistants, chaplains and all of the staff in our schools for your tireless energy and resilience in managing the complex and frequently changing responsibilities which you have been required to undertake to permit learning and teaching and the spiritual life of the school to be undertaken safely and effectively.
 
The strains which you have had to face cannot be underestimated and will, I know, have impacted upon the personal wellbeing of a great many of you. Yet, with immense selfsacrifice and determination, our schools have put the welfare of children and young people first. You have not only given stability to the pupils in our schools in a time of uncertainty but also been a bulwark of support to their parents, families and communities. 
 
The Church and the whole of our society owes you all a great deal of gratitude.
 
May God bless you, your families and loved ones in these joyful Advent and Christmas seasons, and keep you safe and well throughout the Year of Our Lord 2021.
 

With the assurance of my prayers for you all,  I remain, yours in Christ Jesus

 
Marcus Stock
Chairman of Catholic Education Service
Bishop of Leeds
Monday, 16 November 2020 15:38 Written by
Monday, 02 November 2020 11:36 Written by

 The Catholic Education Service has made it clear to the Welsh Government that they risk ‘losing the trust of the Catholic community’ in Wales if they continue with their planned changes to Religious Education in Catholic schools.

Angela Keller, CES Wales Adviser, made these comments while giving evidence to the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee as it scrutinises the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.

The Bill has caused alarm among Catholic educators because it penalises Catholic schools, placing additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach an additional (secular) RE curriculum.

The proposed legislation seeks to change the name of RE to Religion Values and Ethics, something that all those on the evidence panel (which included representatives from the Church in Wales, the RE teaching profession and local government) strongly disagreed with.

In their evidence, the CES highlighted a ‘lack of trust’ between the Welsh Government and Catholic schools, and that the Bill gave the distinct impression to the Catholic community that these changes were needed because something was wrong with Catholic RE in the first place.

The CES also echoed the concerns of all 84 Catholic headteachers in Wales who wrote a joint letter to the First Minister highlighting the damaging impact these proposals would have on Catholic schools.

The evidence session provided the opportunity for the CES to make the case for parents as the primary educators of their children and insisted that the Catholic community would resist the Bill’s proposals to remove parents’ right of withdrawal from both RE and Relationship and Sex Education.

The extreme unfairness of the new proposals, that would allow a non-Catholic parent the right to demand secular RE for their child in a Catholic school, but would not allow a Catholic parent the right to ask for Catholic RE to be given to their child in a secular school, were also pointed out.

After the evidence session (which took place on Thursday 15 October) CES Wales Adviser Angela Keller commented: “Everyone giving evidence represented either a State partner or a member of the RE profession, and each one of us said the Welsh Government was going in the wrong direction.

“It’s hurtful that the Welsh Government appears to see Catholic schools as the problem because we teach Catholic RE. The Welsh Government needs to start trusting Catholic schools and the professionals who work extremely hard in them.”

 

Notes to Editors

 

  • Further information about the Children, Young People and Education Committee evidence session can be found here: https://business.senedd.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=443&MId=6544&Ver=4
  • The Catholic Church is Wales comprises of three dioceses; the Diocese of Wrexham, the Diocese of Menevia and the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Collectively they have an estimated Catholic population of over 200,000 people
  • There are 84 Catholic schools in Wales, all of which are Voluntary Aided Schools
  • Welsh Catholic schools educate almost 28,000 pupils and employ more than 1500 teachers
  • 54% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are of the Catholic faith 
  • On 5 May 2020, The Welsh Government opened its ‘Curriculum for Wales: Religion, values and ethics’ consultation. This consultation followed on from a previous consultation (entitled ‘Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum’) which asked respondents to comment on a number of proposals, including a change of name for Religious Education and the intention to rescind the parental right of withdrawal from the subject in the new curriculum.
  • Many teachers and leaders in Catholic schools across Wales responded to that consultation to oppose the changes, viewing it as an assault on parental rights and on the academic rigour of Religious Education in Catholic schools
  • According to the Welsh Government’s own consultation analysis, opposition to its proposals came from across the whole sector https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2020-01/full-report-ensuring-access-to-the-full-curriculum.pdf
  • Despite fervent opposition the Welsh Government has moved to introduce these changes to rename Religious Education to Religion, Values and Ethics in the new curriculum
  • Concerns have also been raised over the lack of due process and transparency as the Government may publish the Bill before it considers responses to the RVE consultation
  • The letter from every catholic headteacher to the First Minister can be found here: https://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/component/k2/item/1003692-catholic-school-heads-unite-to-oppose-re-changes

ENDS

The headteacher of every Catholic school in Wales has written to the First Minister asking him to rethink his Government’s proposed changes to Religious Education.

The headteachers of more than 80 Welsh Catholic schools have signed a joint letter asking the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, to stop the proposed legislation surrounding RE which specifically targets the Catholic ethos of their schools.

With the plans uniquely affecting their schools, the headteachers have taken the unprecedented step of collectively asking for reassurance that it is not the Government’s specific intention to damage Catholic schools. 

The Welsh Government plans to expand the scope of traditional RE to ‘Religion Values and Ethics’, removing the academic rigor of the subject and reducing it to an over-simplistic comparison exercise which fails to understand the fundamentals of faith and religion. 

The new proposals, published in May, specifically penalise Catholic schools, placing additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach two separate RE curriculums without any consideration of resourcing impactions this would have for schools.

In their letter, the headteachers state that the proposed changes to RE fail to recognise the heritage and deep connection Religious Education has within church schools, including Catholic schools, which dedicate 10% of curriculum time to the subject.

They go on to say the Welsh Government’s desire to create a so-called ‘neutral values’ curriculum risks moving towards a homogeneous education system which would no longer recognise children’s legal right to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of their own faith as well as those of others.

Prior to the proposed legislation, a majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation said they were against the name change of RE and that they supported the continuation of parents’ rights to withdraw their children from RE. On both of these, the Welsh Government have ignored popular opinion.

Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service, which represents Catholic schools in Wales, commented: “I hope this letter from all of the headteachers makes the Welsh Government realise the overwhelming strength of feeling against these proposals to the Catholic community. They strike at the very identity of Catholic schools and at the heart of the principle that that parents, and not the State, are the primary and principal educators of their children.”

Notes to Editors

  • The full letter can be read here
  • The Catholic Church is Wales comprises of three dioceses; the Diocese of Wrexham, the Diocese of Menevia and the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Collectively they have an estimated Catholic population of over 200,000 people
  • There are 84 Catholic schools in Wales, all of which are Voluntary Aided Schools
  • Welsh Catholic schools educate almost 28,000 pupils and employ more than 1500 teachers
  • 54% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are of the Catholic faith 
  • On 5 May 2020, The Welsh Government opened its ‘Curriculum for Wales: Religion, values and ethics’ consultation. This consultation followed on from a previous consultation (entitled ‘Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum’) which asked respondents to comment on a number of proposals, including a change of name for Religious Education and the intention to rescind the parental right of withdrawal from the subject in the new curriculum.
  • Many teachers and leaders in Catholic schools across Wales responded to the Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum consultation to oppose the changes, viewing it as an assault on parental rights and on the academic rigour of Religious Education in Catholic schools
  • According to the Welsh Government’s analysis of the Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum consultation, opposition to its proposals came from across the whole sector https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2020-01/full-report-ensuring-access-to-the-full-curriculum.pdf
  • Despite fervent opposition the Welsh Government has moved to introduce these changes to rename Religious Education to Religion, Values and Ethics in the new curriculum
  • Serious concerns were also raised by parents and teachers about the removal of the parental right of withdrawal for RE  as it infringed on the core Catholic belief that parents are the primary educators and the legal right of children to receive an upbringing in their faith
  • The Welsh Government intends to introduce a Curriculum and Assessment Bill in order to implement these changes
  • Concerns have also been raised over the lack of due process and transparency as the Government may publish the Bill before it considers responses to the RVE consultation
  • At the time of writing, the CES understands that the Government is not minded to postpone the legislation, regardless of the unforeseen impact of the Covid-19 crisis on schools 

ENDS

Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service commented: “Catholic schools have a particular care for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, and are rightly concerned about the effects of a prolonged absence from school for these and other children. Many Catholic schools are therefore already planning for opening in a safe and sustainable manner as soon as conditions allow it.

“The COVID-19 crisis has presented schools with an unprecedented challenge and in Catholic schools, school leaders, teachers and support staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Any phased reopening must place the safety, health and well-being of pupils and staff as its number one priority and should be done in close collaboration with dioceses and local authorities.

“In this respect, schools must be provided with clear information, proper support and enough time to plan and make thorough risk assessments, before they make the final decision to re-open. The CES remains committed to working with the Government to ensure that these key elements of support are put in place for dioceses and governing bodies.

“With pupils having missed a significant part of the school year, parents need to know that, as we slowly return to some semblance of normality, Catholic schools will be able to provide the pastoral, educational and spiritual support that are so needed in these challenging times.” 

 ENDS

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