Catholic Herald Reporter R OUCiH estimates made this week in view of the Newsom Report suggest that, if the school-leaving age is raised to 16. Catholic schools will have to find 10-15 per cent more accommodation.
This estimate is less unnerving than might have been expected because some Catholic schools are already designed to cater for a five year course. Some of them, designed for three forms taking a five year course. may already be admitting four forms and giving them a four year course, with a small voluntary fifth year.
The present degree of overcrowding this entails. together with the necessary preparation for fifth years of the future, must all be taken into account by the Catholic authorities in future building projects.
The Newsom Report proposes that children entering secondary schools in 1965 and subsequently should stay there till they are 16. This date was chosen because of an anticipated trough in the national figures for the age groups concerned. But population pressures, while decreasing at that time for the country at large, will not do so in the Catholic community. The burden on Catholic schools will thus be greater than on others, .both in building and the recruiting of teachers.
Social slant The Report's emphasis on social aspects of education has met with a warm welcome. It recognises in effect that teachers cannot really teach the child from a bad background without very special skill and provision, and that parentteacher co-operation is crucial. It orientates the education of the average, and less than average. teenager towards occupational and leisure interests in such a way that the last terms at school are to be "outgoing" — a direct encounter with the world the pupils are going to live in, the jobs they are going to do, the leisure activities available.
But the occupational stress is tempered by an insistence on encouraging "imaginative experience" through the arts. Through this sort of integration, the "one talent" of the less gifted child may be brought out to the advantage of the whole of the community.
The principal lecturer in education at Si. Mary's Training College, Strawberry Hill, Mr. James McGibbon, told me this week: In this Report, CATHOLIC HERALD readers will have been pondering such proposals as fixing a date for raising the leaving age to sixteen. making fuller use of school premises in the evening, imparting a definite adult-looking. semivocational flavour to the final years in school. But there are others.
It was with some apprehension that one turned to the chapter entitled "Spiritual and Moral Development".
Morality It must be said, however, that, once we have made our understandable reservations about the Common Syllabus approach, practically everything in this chapter is in conformity with the Catholic position. The report stresses the fairly universal desire of young people to be good and their yearning for a firm objective basis for behaviour.
The unambiguous declaration "The rigid Religious instruction has a part to play in helping boys and girls to find a firm basis for sexual morality. based on chastity before marriage and fidelity within it" is miles away from the vague woolliness of the Crowther Report on the same topic.
Those who work closely with young people, Catholic and nonC.atholic, find it very ironical that modern publicists who declare the sex-impulse to be quite irresistible, set themselves up as spokesmen for youth. It would be more correct to say that they are the spokesmen for the less moral middle-aged. The report condemns much that passes for religious instruction in schools — boring Bible readings, vague ethical teaching. mere discussion and so on. It calls for dedicated professional teaching of religion and proper training for those who undertake it.
It pays tribute, however, to the sincere endeavour of countless teachers in State schools who have tried to give a Christian formation and example to the children. within the scope of the agreed syllabus.