Dr JC Jibbings proposes a new inspectorate of theology for Catholic schools THE case for the Catholic school is basically two-told. One part rests upon the teaching authority of the Church laid upon it at its foundation; the other comes from a responsibility for guiding and inculcating a practice of the Catholic religion.
The school then has a two-fold responsibility both to the bishop and to the parent. In both these senses the teacher acts through love of his pupil and as a direct consequence, teaching is rightly considered a vocation and from this is derived its status.
The case for the Catholic school has to be made to secular authorities. To this end there is a need to make a clear division of Religious Education into Religious Practice and Religious Knowledge or catechises. Much debate in the past has been confused because this distinction has not been made.
The authority of the Foundation Governors of our schools is laid upon them by their bishops. Correspondingly, the responsibility of the Governors is to the bishop. This responsibility includes the quality of the teaching of theology.
In judging the quality of teaching for all other subjects Governors have three independent and external sources of data: the results of public examinations, the professional advice of the Local Education Authority educational advisers, and the reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools. In the matter of the teaching of theology in Catholic schools there seem to exist agreements to exclude the latter two sources of data from the advice given to Governors.
Public examination results have also been excluded by a policy decision of some schools not to enter pupils for this subject. This decision seems usually to have resulted from an absence of the clarification between Religious Knowledge and Religious Practice.
The danger of this has now been reported from Ireland (Catholic Herald, January 11, 1991) where "enthusiasm waned after the first year in secondary school when students realised they were unlikely ever to face an exam in the subject".
The above-mentioned exclusion of comment by secular authorities upon the quality of teaching of theology in Catholic schools is consistent with the teaching authority laid upon the Church. There is therefore a case for the setting up of a Hierarchy's Inspectorate of School Theology. This should be formed on a national basis and be seen to be comparable in academic status to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools. Ideally it should work in the closest cooperation with Her Majesty's Inspectorate perhaps completing or complementing the teams that inspect our schools.
On a local basis, the individual Diocesan/Religious Teams should provide the advisory service, on a formalised basis, that is presently given in all other subjects by the Local Education Authority. There must be the closest of links between the national organisation and the diocesan ones. For example, some delegation of inspection duties could be placed upon the diocesan organisations by the national one.
In education, strong emphasis is placed upon uniformity of academic standard. The proposed national organisation could ensure this for theology. It could also overcome the concern about the variations between the several syllabuses currently being used in the Catholic sector.
The implementation of such proposals would make abundantly clear to our secular authorities the high academic status required by the Church in the teaching of theology in our schools.
This has gained increasing significance recently because it has, been reported that there is a growing demand for places to study theology in our universities, Oxford reporting it to be the most over-subscribed subject; and Catholic schools could be seen as almost the only providers of this academic subject.
These matters could only enhance significantly the case to these authorities for our Church schools.