Friday, 15 July 2011

Westminster Diocese bottles out of meeting

In all things to love and serve - but not as far
 as Westminster Diocese is concerned!

A good opportunity to build bridges or, at least to put their point of view across to parents of Cardinal Vaughan School pupils was lost last Monday night when Westminster Diocese decided against representation at an open meeting held to discuss the way ahead.

You do not need to employ a PR guru or to have any depth of knowledge regarding inter personal skills to understand that the Diocese (and Archbishop Nichols) are on the hind foot and have been in that position for some time.
Someone close to his Grace needs the courage to tell him that they are in a situation where, whatever  the final outcome, they just cannot win. In brief, when in a hole you should stop digging!

The Vaughan Parents were disappointed at the 'no show' by Westminster Diocese - here is their report of the meeting:-

"Monday night’s meeting between parents and governors, so long requested and so often denied, was a cause for both celebration and disappointment:  celebration because parents left governors in no doubt about their unity and passionate commitment to their children’s School, but disappointment at the lost opportunity to build bridges and move forward, because of the absence of any diocesan representation at the meeting.

The meeting had been advertised as an opportunity for parents to ask questions, both of the Governing Body and the Diocese, about decisions concerning the governance of the School and plans for its future direction.  Over 400 parents attended and took the opportunity to demonstrate their enthusiastic support, both for their elected parent governors and for the staff, represented by acting Head, Charles Eynaud and Deputy Head, Paul Stubbings.  Parents asked probing questions, principally of the Chairman of Governors, John O’Donnell.

Apart from the Diocese’s regrettable decision not to send an official representative, foundation governors Paul Barber (Diocesan Director of Education), Monsignor James Curry (Archbishop’s representative on the Governing Body) and newly appointed Kate Griffin (member of the Executive Board of the Catholic Education Service) were also absent.  This meant that there was no one who could answer with authority any question about overall policy or more detailed questions about why some foundation governors had been removed and others appointed.  The other absentee was Ike Offiah, one of the two foundation governors retrospectively designated as a “parent”, although he has no child in the School.

In attendance were foundation governors Rita Biddulph, Michael Craven, Gerry Kelly,  Bwalya Kwanga, Rory O’Hare and Mary Waplington, the other designated “parent” (with no child in the School), as well as elected parent governors James King, Jackie Knight, John Murphy  Andrzej Rumun and Janusz Zajaczkowski, and local authority governor, Sir Adrian FitzGerald.

Mr O’Donnell’s explanation that diocesan officials could not be present because the parent governors’ legal action against the Diocese remained unresolved prompted a question from a parent:  if the ongoing nature of the legal action was sufficient to prevent diocesan attendance at this meeting, why was it not sufficient to halt the process of appointing a new Head?  Mr O’Donnell replied that, because the appointment of a new Head was Governing Body business, it could proceed.

In answer to a question, Mr O’Donnell said that the process of appointing a new Head had stalled earlier in the year, because the “field was not strong enough”; his attempted assurance that “the search for an outstanding Head teacher continues” elicited a shout of “He’s behind you!” from the back of the Hall, to much laughter and tumultuous applause (Mr Eynaud and Mr Stubbings were sitting on the platform behind Mr O’Donnell).

Many of the pre-submitted questions, a list of which was circulated at the start of the meeting, were directed to the expected diocesan representative. Mr O’Donnell answered a question about the Diocese’s future plans for the School by saying, “The Diocese has no plans for the School”; this was greeted by disbelief.

A parent took the meeting through the Diocese’s actions since the beginning of the current dispute:  referral of its admission arrangements to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator, replacement of seven foundation governors (including two Chairmen of Governors) in two years, refusal to appoint current parents as foundation governors, objections to music scholarships, refusal to meet parents.  He concluded, “And you expect us to believe that the Diocese has no hidden agenda for the School?”  This was warmly applauded.

VPAG Chairman, Anna Brown, said, “We were delighted that so many parents cared enough to attend this meeting, called at relatively short notice at such a busy time of the school year.  A high proportion had questions to ask, and their support for the elected parent governors and the staff was wonderful to see.  It was gratifying to note that, when they were asked, on a show of hands, whether there was any opposition to the activities of the VPAG, only two hands were raised.

“We hope the Governing Body will take away from this meeting, and communicate to the Diocese, the absolute determination of Vaughan parents to preserve the ethos, traditions and standards of the School.  We call on the Archbishop, in anticipation of the government’s announced intention to amend the regulations, to appoint now two parents of pupils currently on the School roll.  We ask him also to use his good offices to bring this sad dispute to an end, by advising his foundation governors to ensure that a Head is appointed who will command support from all sections of the Governing Body.”

PLEASE NOTE: If you would like to sign the petition in support of the School Parents here it is

1 comment:

  1. For where the Archbishop's priorities appear to lie see John Smeaton's blog 14th July.
    At this rate it won't be a red hat, it'll be lavender.