by Murray White
THE CHURCH in Britain should consider setting up a research centre to show its commitment to developing Catholic education into the next century, according to a leading academic.
Speaking at the Catholic Education Conference in Bradford this week, Prof Maurice Galton, Professor of Education at Leicester University, said that in an increasingly complex age, Catholics must be prepared to develop the vital role its schools play in passing on the faith. A commitment to research would allow the Church to be in a position "to be pro-active rather than reactive to the Government's educational initiatives."
With clergy numbers falling. it is through the Catholic education system that the Church will find its new leaders, Prof Galion, a Catholic, told delegates.
He said: "Surely the
Hume AIDS clarification
CARDINAL _Hume said he would be reluctant to see children withdrawn from lessons on HIV and AIDS unless they were taught in a context of "unacceptable sexual practices".
In a clarification of his recent support for teaching on AIDS, the cardinal told the Bradford conference he would not support an opt-out clause for parents to remove their children from classes. He stressed that the teaching of the biological facts regarding AIDS must he backed up by its moral implications in RE lessons.
The Cardinal said he understood the anxieties of parents over AIDS education, but went on: "In withdrawing their children, parents may lose their confidence in the overall guidance they give them, since the speed of passing on information within peer groups, and the depth of it, should not be underestimated."
Education Secretary John Patten said he would take the cardinal's views carefully into account importance of that task demands at least a modest investment in a research and development base. It nothing else it may at least be worth a second collection on one Sunday during the year."
In wide ranging speeches, in which they unfurled their visions of the Catholic School in the year 2000, both Prof Galton and Cardinal Basil Hume spoke up for children with special needs.
The Cardinal voiced concern that a move towards schools with greater autonomy would still ensure appropriate local education for children of all abilities and backgrounds. "A litmus test for Christians is to look at the effects of policy changes on those most vulnerable in society," he said.
Prof Galton said that the thinking which led to the National Curriculum contained a "serious flaw" in allowing market forces to dominate alongside a compulsory curriculum. Such a system produced a rigidity that makes it impossible to take account of pupils developing at different rates.
"If a school views ability as meeting a required standard at a certain point in time then, almost certainly, pupils who fail to reach this standard will feel a loss of esteem," he said.
The Cardinal spoke of the Catholic mission as "building up a civilisation of love in a secular city," going on to praise the efforts of all Catholics who work in the education sphere. He singled out catechists and their success in developing the RCIA programme, which he said all parishes should provide.
The quality of headteachers and their staff, the worship and RE teaching in a school, and the responsibility of parents were all vital elements in a successful Catholic school, the Cardinal said.
• A new body is to bring together primary and secondary headteachers for the first time to share skills and offer a national view of their concerns.
The new Association of Catholic Schools and Colleges. ACSC, is to host its first conference in October. Committee member and headteacher Willie Slavin, said: "We need to utilise the growing management skills of headteachers."