Mr. Keen's Strange Position
SIR,-The publication of the letter from Mr. J. J. Keen astonished me.
it is strange to find a man, who professes to be so well-informed, entirely out of touch with what has been, for many years, one of the basic principles of all Catholic approach to education. To speak of this principle as " recent " and " retrograde" is not only not true, hut such a complete mis-statement as to be almost incomprehensible corning from a Catholic.
It would be impossible to give an adequate answer to such a complete mis-statement without asking fur more space than you could give, because mis-statements so often,as in this case, include so much of ignorance or of error. or of both. But, since I do not wish to dismiss the whole letter as of no importance, because so utterly incorrect, I would ask your permission to draw attention to the following points.
(l) There is no connection whatsoever between the good or bad educational standard of a school and the question of the right of admission. This is evident to a tyro in education.
. (2) That very many of our schools have not been brought up to the material standards demanded by the operation of the Education Act. 1944. is true. But so have many county schools continued in an extremely sub-standard state, and will so continue for many a long year yet. Mr. Keen could quote almost as many county schools in his own Authority. as I can, which are sub-standard. and from which the L.C.C. Education Authority has received many and bitter complaints. Mr. Keen will remember last winter's press campaign about a county school very near the house in which I am writing this. But, if our schools are substandard, that is most emphatically not our fault.
All over England the Catholic authorities have been urging inelusion of our schools in the Local Education Authorities Building Programmes, and, in most cases. our claims have been adjudged less urgent than those of county schools. The Schooks' Commissions of the various dioceses have protested against this on numerous occasions.
Mr. Keen can hardly be so innocent of the administrative side of education as to think that all would be well if only we would give up our claim to admit those pupils we think should be admitted. In this connection, and since Mr. Keen is a member of the London County Council. I would like to call attention to section 109 of the Education Act, 1944. which was intended to offer a certain measure of relief to voluntary schools during the post-war period.
By the operation of this clause it was hoped that voluntary schools, which could take advantage of it. would be less sub-standard during the inevitable interval between the passing of the Act and its implementation. Unfortunately, section 190 is permissive and no absolute demand for its use can he made by a Voluntary school to a Local Education Authority. The section has been used in different degrees by Local Education Authorities to alleviate the situation of voluntary schools. Some Authorities have been very generous to voluntary schools. But the London County Council is among the Authorities most energetic in refusing entirely to operate section 109. Mr. Keen is as aware as I am of the sad history of his Authority, vis-a-vis my own Commission, in respect of our requests under section 109, and many of our schools in South London. I am not speaking for London north of the Thames, are suffering because of his Authority's intransigence.
(3) Mr. Keen should be quite well informed on the whole question of right of admission, because my own Commission, together with that of Westminster, has been long in discussion with the London County Education Authority on this very question, and the minutes of these meetings must have been in Mr. Keen's possession.
Over a year ago, after several meetings, agreement between the L.C.C. and the two Catholic Commissions was reached on all points contained in the proposed Rules of Management for Primary Schools, with the exception of clause 12. This clause would give extensive control to the L.C.C. over the admission to our Catholic schools.
Since we could not agree, it was proposed that the L.C.C. be asked, by the Education Committee, to approve the rules with the exception of clause 12, which itself would be a subject of appeal to the Minister. It may be that Mr. Keen was not present at the meetings of the Education Committee and of the Council at which these points were brought up for approval.
(4) The demand that schools built by Catholics should retain the right to select their pupils, goes back, as an articulate statement of Catholic policy, to, at least, 1921. Before that no such articulate statement was necessary. If we do not retain right of admission to the schools we build with our own money, we might indeed ask ourselves if we are justified in spending so much money, time and energy in defending the cause of Catholic Education at all. What Mr. Keen would have us do is to pay 100 per cent. for our school places. as we have done, are doing and will do, and then make a present of them to the State Strange doctrine from a Catholic!
Joseph J. Crowley (Rev.)
Chairmae. Southwark Diocesan Schools Commission.
2 Mitcham Lane, S.W.16.
Schools and F,ducation
SIR.-With reference to Councillor Keen's. letter, may I point out that the writer is expressing his own personal viewpoint and in no way the spokesman of the Catholic Parents' Association to which he refers in the last paragraph but one. I wish to make this point, as many, remembering the enthusiastic support that Councillor Keen has in the past afforded the C.P.E.A. in Southwark, might be somewhat misled by this reference.
In the letters of both Councillors Keen and "Catholic Schoolmaster" one finds considerable confusion between Catholic Schools and Catholic Education. With regard to the former, one finds whatever conveniently supports one's case. I personally could introduce both writers to excellent Catholic Secondary Modern Schools and have myself worked in State
schools in which the whole age-range of 5-15 years was divided into two classes; in other where nothing but a curtain divided an age-group of 8-15 years-80 children in all-into two classes.
In so far as our material standards do fall short of State schools, it is due partly to the fact that we are burdened with the need to raise the money for them ourselves, but even more, that we are not being given permission to build the schools that are so urgently needed.
With reference to Catholic education, may I suggest in the friendliest way to Councillor Keen, that very few management committees come into close contact with the actual education of the schools. In discussing fundamentals of education. the most advanced theorists are demanding that the physical. mental and spiritual should be developed; that education should be a unity in which all sides of the personality can grow equally and where school and home are complementary to one another.
Perhaps it may he encouraging to those cast down by the criticism of the preceding correspondence to realise that it is only in the denominational schools that those standards can hope to be attained, i.e., where teachers are united among themselves and with the parents of their charges in all points of faith and morals.
M. E. Odell,
M.A.. Oxon., F.R.G.S., F.R.111.S. Chairman, Southwark Diocesan Council of C.P.E.A.
276 Woolwich Rd., S.E.2.
sut.-It is surprising that Councillor Keen should not see the harm which his letter can do to our cause. His standards are evidently not ours. Unless the foundations of our faith are well and truly laid in the home and in the school, we consider that education, no matter how brilliant it may seem, is not up to standard, Council, or rather County, schools are often better equipped and more easily administered: they receive full benefit from public funds: tbey are free from dual control. Administration and equipment arc not education. The humblest Catholic school has something vital to give and to foster-our faith, which enlightens the mind, and directs the will. about the things that count most in life.
The Catholic Education Council is our approved guide in matters educational. it is composed of experts who have proved themselves men of outstanding character and ability. To label their decision a " retrograde step" shows irresponsibility. Councillor Keen can take for granted that far-reaching decisions arc the result of the utmost care for the character of our schools. In the case in point this care is evident: control of admissions is essential.
What causes most trouble to us and Catholic parents is the lack of Catholic Secondary Modern Schools. London has relatively fewer than many large towns. Temporary help can be given under section 109. The L.C.C., I am informed, is less generous in
using this than most L.F..A.s. To remedy these deficiencies would be a step in the right direction.
(Rev.) Francis Turner. Upholland.
[Views of correspondents, like Mr. Keen, may be poles apart front our views, but we consider it necessary, if this page is to be of real and lasting value. that letters from Catholics holding public positions. written on their own subject, should be published, if space can be found. We have always looked to other Catholics to place the matter in its right light, and they have always. as in this instance, done so. The net result is to afford effective and fair publicity for matters of importance and concern to the whole Catholic body.-EDIToR,