The first sentence of Richard Dowden's article in the Catholic Herald of February 18 gives a false impression of the speech by Mrs Shirley Williams at St Albans.
She introduced this part of her address by reference to her experiences as a university student. Some girls came marvellously equipped to live and to defend their Faith, Others, from equally renowned convent schools, seemed to collapse when they met the outside world.
She moved on to say that many Catholic schools did not qualify Catholic children to meet secular society, or equip them to defend their own beliefs. We — their teachers — ought to be more willing to accept discussion and debate.
True education, she added, aimed at the formation of a true human being and there was sometimes evidence among our past pupils of an insufficient sense of social obligation.
To construe this as "Minister attacks standards" is to stretch that military metaphor out of all recognition. She said no more than many of us say inside and outside our own schools.
To imply that "good" Catholics should spring to arms against this "enemy within the gates" is, in my view, substantially to misread what an astute and eminently persuasive Catholic sought to do, namely, to make us take a clear look at the content and methods of the religious formation we offer our pupils and to he careful lest we use discipline to crush doubt and dissent.
Harry Mellon Vice President, Catholic Teachers' Federation Coventry, Wcst Midlands.
Mrs Shirley Williams' remarks (February 18) and the mixed reaction by letters to the Editor (February 25) serve sharply to pinpoint our society to be in a state of spiritual flux.
Therefore, committed and dedicated Catholic teachers should think hard about the basic principles for which they stand and then try to apply these principles as far as it is humanly possible.
The rites, practices and doctrine of the Catholic Faith do not have to be committed for all time to Church schooling, State schooling, the dual system, comprehensiveness, daily acts of worship at whole school morning assemblies, compulsory religion, corporal punishment, school uniform, adult catechetics or whatever.
Catholic teachers say that education and religion cannot be separated as all education must be based upon a value system, which is taught alongside other subjects. With this, Marxist opinion is the same. Western liberel humanism with educational stances for living would disagree with both Catholic and Marxist opinion. The fact that the hierarchy of England and Wales has built the schools since 1944 but has not been so successful in the provision of committed and dedicated Catholic teachers has only made it a more formidable task for those who do teach the Catholic Faith.
Even if 70 per cent lapse at 16 or 18 years of age, a 30 per cent success rate is no mean achievement.
E. J. M. Lawn Headmaster, St John's School, Newham Green Street, London, E13.
The (unfortunately) justified criticism of Catholic schools uttered by Shirley Williams should be fixed on the walls of our bishops' palaces. parish priests' studies, Catholic staff rooms and homes until some drastic action is taken to solve the biggest problem facing the Church today — the loss of faith of our young people.
(Mrs) Mary Smith B roadstairs, Kent.
I have read the letters from Mrs Margaret Bradley(January 28) and Mr L. J. Hill (February 11) on the question of the governing of Catholic schools with interest and a degree of puzzlement.
Like these two correspondents I have been a governor / manager of several Catholic schools for a considerable time and have been involved in several of the functions under discussion — in particular the appointment and promotion of staff, and it is this topic that attracted my interest in the. recent correspondence.
Mrs Bradley is concerned over various aspects of school government, among them the fact that "teachers seem to be appointed by the head or head and chairman".
In replying to her letter, Mr Hill states that he sees no reason why managers / governors should be involved in appointments below the level of head and deputy head, the head being left free to make all appointments below this level — a function they perform very well. I find the two viewpoints rather puzzling in that governors are given very clear instructions on these matters in the memorandum on the appointment of teachers issued by the Education Commission of the Bishops of England and Wales, The first item of this memorandum states it is addressed to the governors / managers of all our Catholic schools so there would appear to be little doubt as to its applicability; yet neither correspondent refers to it — nor. indeed, gives any impression of knowing of its existence.
Item 8 of this memorandum refers to the power of delegation in respect of appointments: it states that as far as senior posts are concerned the matter should not be delegated to a sub-committee of governors but should be done by the whole governing body.
There is no reason to interpret "senior post" as meaning just head or deputy head, as suggested by Mr Hill, and indeed the next grade involves the word "senior" in its title.
I therefore find Mr Hill's suggestion completely unacceptable: if the appointment cannot be delegated to a sub-committee of governors how can it possibly he delegated to the head alone who is not even a member of the governing body?
A. P. Tait London, SE18, Mrs Margaret Bradley (January 28) raised the issue of the appointment of managers / governors of Catholic schools, and her point ought to be dealt with. It is all very well for Mr Clifford Mulligan (February 18), as a headmaster, to say that it does not matter who the managers / governors arc, as long as they really get involved with the school. He is side-stepping the issue.
If the managers /governors really were accountable to parents or parishioners, or indeed to all who contribute to the diocesan education fund, and if their names were publicised instead of remaining a mystery, as is the case here locally, then they would automatically be involved.
they would feel it their duty. and indeed it would be their interest and pleasure, to discover everything possible about the school for which they were supposed to take important decisions.
But once such managers /governors appeared on the scene, Mr Mulligan, I am afraid that you. as a headmaster, would have to be prepared for far more visits than once every three years!
(MN) Julie M. Roberts New Malden,