Schools plan plea to Cardinal Hume
by Jonathan Petre CARDINAL Hume will reconsider the Westminster Bishops' plan for the reorganisation of secondary schools in West London if he is presented with "strong and significant evidence", Mr A Meehan, Director of Schools Administration, said this week.
The Cardinal's position became clear during a one and a half hour meeting on December 23 with representatives of the National Association of Schoolmasters / Union of Women Teachers and staff members from several of the ichools facing amalgamation under the bishops' plan.
Mr Tony Kane, branch secretary of the union, had asked for the meeting because he is unsatisfied with the report of the Bruce Committee, set up in 1982 by the bishops to provide an alternative set of proposals to those put forward by the Inner London Education Authority and Bishop David Konstant, Chairman of the Education Commission, in 1980.
The bishops' plan, announced in November, is considered to be based on the Bruce report, which, according to its author, Mr Dominic Bruce, former principal of Kingston College of Further Education, reflected concensus among all the schools concerned.
But Mr Kane told Cardinal Flume that there was a significant discrepancy between the views expressed to Mr Bruce by representatives of the schools and those presented in the final report. "We presented the Cardinal with new facts which showed that the . Bruce committee failed to hear evidence from all parties concerned. The chairman (Mr Bruce) tended to select comments which tied in with his preconceived overall view," Mr Kane said.
Mr Meehan, who was also present at the meeting, said that Cardinal Hume had seemed "perturbed" at Mr Kane's suggestion, but that "did not mean Mr Kane was right."
Mr Meehan reported Cardinal Hume as saying that the bishops' decisions stood firm unless he was presented with "very powerful evidence that it should be changed." Although he did not specify what this evidence might be, Mr Kane said he took it to mean evidence that might suggest that the Bruce report did not in fact command the consensus among schools that it claimed.
The general impression given by the Cardinal at the meeting was that the bishops' plan remained "but he was impressed with what we said," Mr Kane added. The union now intends to send Cardinal Hume a copy of notes taken at a meeting of the Consultative Group, a working party of representatives of the seven Catholic secondary schools and members of the Bruce Committee, which suggest, according to Mr Kane, that Mr Bruce had been "highly selective" in what he had chosen to present in his report.
Neither Cardinal Hume, nor Bishop Konstant were available for comment this week.
Another problem for the cardinal is the refusal of the London Oratory school, which is under the trusteeship of the Oratorian Fathers, to comply with the reorganisation plan.
According to Mr Meehan, however, a number of people have mooted the idea that the .London Oratory school, at present a boys' comprehensive might become an independent school.