Page 7, 19th January 2001

19th January 2001
Page 7
Page 7, 19th January 2001 — Where are the Catholic heads?

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Where are the Catholic heads?

THAT IT IS so DIFFICUL1 to find and then to keep heads for Catholic schools is not surprising: but it is none the less disturbing.

It is not surprising since there is a shortage of teachers in general and of heads in particular in all types of schools. Fewer teachers want to take on the grave responsibilities of headship. It is particularly noticeable that many of the best deputies are not applying for headships. Heads themselves are driven to take early retirement. One can understand why.

All the old responsibilities are still there. Yet added to all these are the bureaucratic requirements of modern governments. These nonessentials actually hinder the performing of the main functions. Simply to admit or to expel a pupil, to take on a teacher, or to make a change to the curriculum have all become hazardous and lengthy actions which could land a head with hours of unnecessary work culminating in legal action.

It seems that it is especially difficult to find heads for Catholic schools. Why should this be so?

The Catholic community expects much of its schools. To take one obvious feature, as well as all the other requirements of academic qualifications and good teaching experience, Catholic heads, quite rightly, are expected to be not merely practising Catholics but literally exemplary Catholics. Quite honestly, the general pool of such teachers has shrunk in recent years. if there are fewer practising Catholics, as undoubtedly there are, then there will be fewer from whom to choose heads. It is obvious too that the religious orders who used to supply so many of our best teachers and heads have now very depleted ranks. This is why now over half of Catholic headships go to re-advertisement. Shortlists have become very short lists indeed.

What can we do? Firstly, governors with a good head — and most Catholic heads are good heads — should cherish him or her to avoid the early retirement that has lost us so many good heads. By "cherish" we mean that the governors should support the head and go out of their way to cut down the amount of bureaucracy. Nationally, the Catholic authorities should claw back some of the responsibilities that, without a fight, they handed over to the Government. For instance, why on earth do Catholic schools need the so-called "Citizenship Education" which the Government wishes to impose on all schools, primary and secondary?

Imagine the relief there would be if it were announced that in all Catholic schools, the national curriculum would be recommended but not compulsory. Our heads deserve support locally and nationally: if we give them that support we will be helping ,most of all, the children in our schools.

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