Page 4, 26th July 1957

26th July 1957
Page 4
Page 4, 26th July 1957 — ~AA A Small Renaissance IF you are made the headmaster of

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People: J. O'Donovan
Locations: London


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~AA A Small Renaissance IF you are made the headmaster of

Keywords: O'donovan

a monstrously ugly, out-ofdate school, built in the days when anything was good enough for the children of the poor. and which has already been condemned by the authorities, what do you do? Do you sit and wait for the axe to fall? Do you, as you wait, allow yourself to be depressed and demoralised by buildings and surroundings which have demoralised generations of others who have likewise been condemned to live and work in them? Or do you spend your time planning for the day when you, too, have a lovely, light, spacious and very costly building in which to demonstrate what you can really do? These were the questions which Mr. J. O'Donovan clearly had to ask himself when, two years ago. he was made the headmaster of the St. Catherine Laboure Secondary School, Herbal Hill. on the edge of London's drab Italian quarter. Here are a few of the things Mr. O'Donovan did: He won the

confidence of children. parents

and teachers and got them all working to make the building just

as good as it could be. Together they toiled—and begged—in order to have it painted in bright

colonrs, decked out with gay curtains in the windows, and attractive posters on the walls.

Two small rooms were converted into an assembly hall, so that the headmaster could. for the

first time ever, talk to all the boys and girls together, and a stage was built by children and parents so that the pupils could put on their own shows. In a cellar far below street level a gymnasium, equipped by a now thoroughly co-operative I.ondon County Council, has been set up. Academic standards have been raised. Some of the art and needlework is exceptionally good.

Two Firsts

SINCE the school has been con demned, and after being in existence for 80 years. it has had its first annual prizegiving (to which I went last year) and its first " open day " (1 went to the second last week). Something of the secret of Mr. O'Donovan's success was to be found in the children's exercise books which were exhibited at the "open das.In the teachers' comments the emphasis was upon encouragement. One series ran: " A good attempt," " Keep trying," " This is better " and " Now try even harder." How many children have languished for just such encouragement as that! What is the consequence of all this? The spirit among the children is excellent, which I know from having visited them when they were at work as well as when they were on show. The axe has not fallen.

Instead, the school now receives tributes from the authorities who originally condemned it. Some day, presumably, they will provide one of those fine new buildings. Certainty Mr. O'Donovan, his stall, the children and the parents will have earned it.

But I have a feeling that when that day comes there will be one person at least who will leave the old building with regret -Mr. O'Donovan himself.


WHEN the new school year begins after the summer holidays. the children of St. Catherine Laboure School will proudly wear the first uniform the school has ever had. It is tasteful, designed for hard wear, and looks as good as the best. This blossoming out in a brand new uniform is a psychologically important part of this little renaissance in a dark corner of London.

The overwhelming majority of the parents will. I understand, he able to buy the uniform. thanks to the generous h.p. terms arranged with the big stare that supplies them.

There will, however, inevitably be the few who will be the odd ones out, members of large Catholic families whose parents simply cannot afford it.

I do not want to appeal to all the long-suffering readers of this column to yet again put their hands in their pockets. But if some reader who can really afford to do se, cares to write out a cheque for a 8s. and sends it to roe. II will see that one such little girl is able to take her place along with the rest in a new green uniform when the school reassembles next month.

Fr. Pephel

FR. PENNI. the priest in Swazi

land who needed £200 for the repair of his school, and £8 a month towards his teachers' salaries, will be a happy man this week. He will by now have received a letter telling him that one reader of this column has given the £200 for which I appealed, two have undertaken to send a regular £4 each monthly, another will send fl a month. whilst donations totalling £6 10s. have also come in for him. Not many of us actually get more than we ask for.

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