BY ED WEST
OONA STANNARD is to step down as chief executive of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW).
Ms Stannard, who has been at CESEW for 12 years, has been on leave since November. Fr Marcus Stock, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, has filled in as acting director and will continue to do so until a successor has been found.
Ms Stannard said: “It has been a privilege to be an educationalist and to serve the Church in this capacity as director and chief executive of CESEW... to have a fulfilling career which for the last 12 years has enabled me to work in two areas about which I feel passionate, ie faith and education, has been a blessing.
“I have given this much thought recently while unexpectedly on leave addressing serious health issues in my family. This time has enabled me to reflect on the changes in education at all levels over the years, the considerable achievements of CESEW, the strong position of Catholic education and what I seek for myself for the future.
“I will leave with many memories, not least those of the opportunities to work with the bishops and their staff, of positive collaboration with members of other denominations and faiths, and of the excellent, constructive relationships built up with politi cians, policy makers and their officers.
“I am happy to have been a small link in that chain and to have led CESEW for 12 years. I wish Catholic education and all who work in its service well for the future.” Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham, Chairman of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, paid tribute to Ms Stannard.
He said: “Ms Stannard has skilfully steered the CESEW through significant policy development and negotiations with governments. Together with her staff, she has brought transparency and a secure evidence base to Catholic education, developing, for example, the CESEW census, the website, research and publications and raising the public profile of Catholic education and the benefits that it provides to society.
“I am sure that all the bishops will wish to join me in thanking Oona for her considerable achievements across a broad range of issues and the dedicated service she has given ... over the past 12 years.” In 2010 Ms Stannard was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for her contribution to Catholic Education by the University of Leicester. That year she also helped to organise the “Big Assembly” during the papal visit, a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham.