Maureen Vincent examines the demands Parents make on a Catholic School.
WHEN 1 went to collect my eldest son after his first day at school his teacher was waiting for me.
"He did very well,she said reassuringly. "He lasted out until about lunch time, and then he came up to my desk and said, 'I think I need a huggle." The point of the story is that he was immediately given a 'huggle', and returned to his place feeling more secure and able to face the seemingly interminable hours before returning to his familiar little world of home.
Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools because they feel they need expert help in carrying out the awe-inspiring task of bringing those souls entrusted to them to the knowledge, love and service of Almighty God.
But Catholics, just like any other parents, hope that the schools to which they entrust their children will be, first and foremost, happy and loving places, places where a little boy who needs a huggle will be given one. No child can possibly learn anything about the love of God if it is taught by people who seem to him unloving, and-disciplinarian.
Teachers, just like parents,
have this frightening
responsibility. The child's ideas must inevitably come from his reactions to those who tell him about God. This is why Catholic parents expect the highest qualities of character in teachers.
On the whole, it is fair to say that we are not disappointed. Having put seven children through school, I suppose I can claim to have had a reasonable amount of experience. We certainly have no, complaints and a great deal of praise. But one has heard horror stories. A I4-year old at a convent school was taught religious knowledge by a lay teacher who admitted casually that she did not believe in God. It is, of course, unthinkable that the nuns could have had any idea that such a revelation would be made, but surely they must have had an inkling about that teacher.
I believe that Catholic parents have a right to expect that the teachers in their schools have a deeply rooted faith. Indeed, surely that must be the whole point of having Catholic schools.
One must concede that, almost invariably, the local nondenominational state schools will be housed in more attractive buildings, surrounded by playgrounds with better amenities, and equipped with books and materials of wider variety and higher standard. We have to pay for the privilege of retaining our right to Catholic education, and we are More than willing to do so. We pay not only in the financial contributions we make to our schools funds, but also in less tangible ways — a longer journey for example. Catholic parents, again like other parents, hope to have some say in the running of their schools. At one time their only opportunity was if they were fortunate enough to be appointed to the managing body or board of governors. However, the growth of parent/teachers associations has meant more direct involvement, to the benefit of themselves, the teachers and, most importantly, the children.
It is vital that there should be a close and continuing com• munication between parents and those who teach their children.
Teachers should be available to
discuss problems. Obviously there is a risk that such availability can be abused by over-anxious and fussy parents, but that risk is far outweighed by the advantages of close liaison.
Parents demand a high standard of education in their children's schools. Catholic parents certainly do not want to feel that their children will suffer academically. Catholic schools tend to have larger classes, but good Wu:fling depends less on the teacher-pupil ratio than it does on the calibre of the teacher.
Catholic parents are lucky, or more appropriately blessed, in that we still have our religious teaching orders. Here we have men and women who have dedicated their lives to the instruction of children. The mere fact that the children in their care must be aware of this teaches more about the love of God than any words could do.
In my opinion, Catholic parenLs ought to be grateful for the high standards preserved.
It is relatively easy to determine what we want from our schools. Perhaps we ought more firmly to bear in mind that schools alone, no matter how good they may be, can do nothing without the backing which teachers have a right to expect tram Catholic homes.