Page 3, 30th December 1966

30th December 1966
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Page 3, 30th December 1966 — Fifty years ago Catholic schools faced extinction
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Fifty years ago Catholic schools faced extinction

By Robert Hoare

THIS week delegates from 87 Catholic teaching associations throughout England and Wales are taking part in the 50th annual conference of the Catholic Teachers' Federation at Christ's College of Education, Liverpool. It is an earnest conference but its temper is very different from that of the first C.T.F. conference held more than half a century ago at the Holy Name School, Ardwick, Manchester.

At the time of that conference, the very existence of Catholic schools within the state system was threatened. Catholic teachers stood in danger of becoming poor relatins of their colleagues in nondenominational schools (as they had been in the nineteenth century).

In 1902, the Balfour Act brought voluntary schools within the administrative competence of the new local authorities. By this Act, for the first time, public money was made available from local rates to support the voluntary schools. But in 1906 the Liberal Government introduced the first of a series of Bills designed to set aside certain provisions of the Balfour Act.

Proposed by Mr. Augustine Birrell, this Bill sought to place all voluntary schools under the control of local authoriities. Only undenominational religious instruction would be allowed normally. If denominational instruction should be given, the cost of it would not be borne by the local education authority.

Catholic opinion, led by Cardinal Bourne of Westminster, united in opposition to the Bill. In fifteen large cities, associations of Catholic teachers were formed to protect the interests of Catholic schools and Catholic teachers.

In the event the Birrell Bill was not passed, but further attempts to amend the Balfour Bill to the detriment of the voluntary schools were to follow. Mr. Reginald McKenna introduced a Bill demanding the repayment of one-fifteenth of the salaries paid to teachers who had given denominational religious instruction: defaulting schools would be excluded from the state system.

When this "mean little Bill" was withdrawn, a new one was promised for the 1908 session of Parliament. This proposed that Catholics and Anglicans might "contract out" of the state system by forfeiting their share of the rates and receive, instead an annual per capita grant from the Government of £2 7s. 6d. (At this time, it cost £3 15s. Od. from rates and taxes to support a child in a Catholic school and the figure for the council schools was £6 10s. Od.) The passing of such a Bill would have meant doom, immediate or ultimate, for Catholic schools in England and Wales.

With this threat over their schools, Catholic teachers from the fifteen associations in various parts of the country held that first historic conference in Manchester on December 28, 1907. They had the support 'of the Bishop of Salford, Louis Charles Casartelli, himself a teacher and former headmaster of St. Bede's College, Manchester.

The conference passed resolutions emphasising parental rights in matters of education, and opposing Mr, McKenna's new Bill. Copies of these resolutions were placed before the Catholic Hierarchy, the Catholic Education Council, Catholic M.P.s and Catholics in the House of Lords.

History has recorded how Catholic schools were not, in the end, excluded from the state system, and how, over the years, they have received further "instalments of justice," as Cardinal Bourne would call them, by way of Acts relieving them of a proportion of the capital expenditure on school building—the latest in the Education Act of 1966. Throughout this

period, the Hierarchy has had the active support of the C.T.F. in publicly campaigning for increased Government help in view of the vast sums now involved.

It has been the policy of the C.T.F. to recognise the implications of national developments in terms of their application to Ca tholic schools. In 1930, when the raising of the school leaving age was contemplated, the c.T.F. Conference resolved that "the leaving age should not be raised unless and until further financial aid to carry out improvements, extensions and reorganisation is given to the voluntary bodies to preserve the character of their schools and their place in the national system."

When, in 1931, a Bill to raise the school leaving age was introduced, Mr. John Scurr, M.P. for Ince (Wigan), was asked to move an amendment covering aid to voluntary schools. In the event, the Bill was not passed but the subsequent 1936 Education Act allowed local education autho rities to contribute from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. towards the building of voluntary schools for seniors.

The concern of the C.T.F. for all facets of education affecting Catholic schools continues. At the 1964 Conference a resolution was passed calling upon the Government for 100 per cent. assistance to Catholic schools involved in financial expenditure through secondary reorganisation.

In 1947, the Hierachy of England and Wales singled out the C.T.F for praise. Ten years later, Archbishop Beck of Liverpool (then Bishop of Salford) said of the C.T.F. "It has been the principal means by which Catholic teachers throughout this country have become efficiently organised."

Pope Pius XII expressed his satisfaction "in knowing that the C.T.F. is held in high esteem by the bishops and clergy of the country for its loyalty and devotion to the Church and for its invaluable work in support of educational progress."

Among the pioneers of the C.T.F. whose efforts before 1914 are remembered are William O'Dea of Manchester, president in 1908 and 1909, honoured by the Pope with the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice and at home with the O.B.E. before he died in 1936; F. J. Worswick, of Manchester, the first president; W. J. Price of London; Laurence Conway of Liverpool; and J. R, Rigby, K.S.G., of Birmingham.

For latter-day members of the C.T.F., the past is perhaps symbolised by Terry Quirk, now living in retirement at Hoylake—sometime secretary, for many years editor, of the Federation's journal, The Catholic Teacher, president in 1922 and again in the jubilee year of 1957.

In recent years, the C.T.F. has produced teacheis prominent in their profession gene rally as well as within Catholic education. Mr. S. W. Exworthy, headmaster of Our Lady of Lourdes, Secondary School, Southport, was president of the National Union of Teachers in 1960, while Mr. Terence Casey in 1962 and Mr. A. J. Smyth in 1964 were president of the National Association of Schoolmasters, of which Mr. Casey is now general secretary.

Mr. Exworthy was president of the C.T.F, in 1963 when the Association acted as hosts in London for the triennial congress of U.M.E.C. (World Union of Catholic Teachers). Following the Congress, Mr. Exworthy and the secretary of the C.T.F., Alderman Charles Sheill, of Hendon (who is also treasurer of U.M.E.C.), were appointed Knights of St. Gregory and seven members of the C.T.F. Council were awarded the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.

The C.T.F. has had its own journal, The Catholic Teacher, since 1914. Issued generally quarterly it has now reached its 162nd edition. In 1958, in co-operation with the Catholic Training Colleges, it launched the Catholic Teachers' Journal, a crusading hi-monthly which has made a significant contribution to every debate in

Catholic education sInce that date. From its next issue (January 1967), the c.T.r, will become Catholic Education Today in recognition of the wider involvement of all concerned with the education of children — teachers, parents, clergy, educationists.

Apart from the annual conference, the C.T.F. holds a regular yearly course-conference at Low Week on topics such as secondary education generally, primary education generally and—as last Low Week by popular demand— religious education. The C.T.F. has organised recent cruisepilgrimages to Rome and took part in the 1965 vocations exhibition in London. It is represented on the Catholic Education Council, the cornmittee of the National Catechetical Centre, the National Lay Apostolate and other bodies. It was called upon to submit evidence for the forthcoming Plowden Report on Primary Education.

The C.T.F. today is essentially forward-looking. Its own policy is "a place in a Catholic school for every Catholic child." Yet it provided at the conference on Religious Education last Low Week the platform from which Mother Mary Norbert dropped her bomb about re-thinking ideas of secondary education for Catholic children. And at this year's annual conference, the first motion in the public session will be seconded by Miss V, Collins a teacher still young enough to be present as a representative of the Association of Catholic; Teacher College Students.

Ahead? An adherence to the belief in the need for Catholic schools despite the financial problems involved. Almost inevitably more frequent incursions into the hitherto sacrosanct field of Religious Education. Elements in this must keep pace with the general stream of educational progress which is rooted in the nature of the pupil and based on the deployment of modern techniques. While Catholics have been waiting for "the new Catechism"— they are still waiting—an education revolution has taken place and Religious Instruction in Catholic schools has become the Cinderella among subjects.

The pace of educational advance today is rapid. One of the aims of the C.T.F. is to see that Catholic schools keep abreast of it.




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