Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Archbishop Nichols "takes over" at leading school


One of London's leading Catholic schools, The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, appears to have lost a battle to retain control of its own Governing Body.
The School has been in a long running High Court battle with Westminster Diocese over the control issue and, in September,it secured an injunction effectively barring the way for the Church to appoint School Governors of its choice.

This issue of control screens mainline concerns such as control of admissions and the School Chairman of the Board of Governors, Sir Adrian Fitzgerald is concerned that new admission policies would prevent the School from enrolling pupils from a committed Catholic background.
In an extract from a report in The Daily Telegraph, Sir Adrian stated  that the Cardinal Vaughan School is no longer allowed to favour:

 “families who go to Mass every Sunday, parents who have their children baptised within a year of birth, children who have made their first confession and first Holy Communion, families who are actively involved in their parishes or the wider life of the Church, and parents who have shown their commitment to a Catholic education for their children.”

Despite repeated meetings with Diocesan Education Director, Paul Barber and Bishop George Stack and all the legal wranglings it appears as if might is right and the Diocese can claim victory.

The views and opinions of the Headteacher, Governing Body, West Middlesex parish priests, parents and pupils count for nothing; from now on the School will have to admit all and sundry and the whole Catholic ethos of the School stands to be lost in a swamp of political correctness.
Back in January 2009,  Damian Thompson quoted an anonymous priest as saying:

“What is the point of having Catholic schools, supporting and encouraging the Catholic life of the parishes, if they are going to be filled with children who are not a bit interested in the Catholic faith? It would appear that the only criterion is to be baptised. Or perhaps the diocese is going all the way and making the school multi-faith.
“I have never come across such a spineless, lily-livered bunch as our bishops – they just don’t want to stand up for anything that might cause offence. I think Cormac wants to leave the diocese the same way he arrived: covered in confusion and embarrassment"

What sort of organisation takes one of its own to court seeking to impose a Stalin like control over a high quality, sound, Catholic School? - Westminster Diocese!

Parents at the School are now considering an appeal but desperately need support. Email Archbishop Vincent Nichols  at:- to voice your disapproval and copy in Anna Arco at The Catholic Herald (I hope she will not mind but it does help give the press a handle on how much opposition there is out there).


  1. The only thing Richard is that I don't think Catholic children should be discriminated against because of their lacksadaisical I go with Archbishop Nichols on this one..

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. In that case Jackie - why discriminate on the basis of Baptism? Are parents who choose not to Baptise their children not also simply "lacksadaisical"?

  4. Jackie, I understand your comments but this issue is about driving down the standards of education. I believe that most Catholic parents want a strong, Catholic ethos in their children's school, not a wishy washy, one size fits all version of Catholicism.

  5. It was a huge scandal in Colorado when a Catholic school said they had standards about who would be accepted into the school. It is fortunate that we have a very strong Archbishop.

  6. Can you have a strong Catholic ethos with say only 10 % of children Catholic? As a former Head of RE & teacher I think a strong Catholic ethos can be achieved in such circumstance..we hear of so many in the 50s etc who had a "convent" education & it influenced them for life..often the rich sent their children to Catholic schools for the ethos even if they weren't Catholic..

  7. Jackie, you are right but a strong Catholic ethos or a good headteacher cannot survive (sadly)being managed by the Diocese. The ethos element is not one that the Bishops of E & W have a good track record on.

  8. JamesP ..well of course a lot of Catholic schools have a large number of Muslim pupils for whom Baptism is not an option..

  9. JamesP ..well of course a lot of Catholic schools have a large number of Muslim pupils for whom Baptism is not an option..

    No doubt influenced by the ecumenaia of our bishops!

  10. Vaughan parents are concerned because Paul Barber (head of Westminster dioces education ) has been appointed to the governing body. He has not been appointed to any other school governing body in the diocese despite the fact that other schools in the diocese have been rocked with financial scandal or our failing schools. Parents fear this is because he wishes to unpick the traditional Catholic ethos of the school and impose something more “ liberal” and less orthodox. It was Paul Barber who reported the school to the adjudicator last year
    On a different note , when a school is hugely oversubscribed (as is the Vaughan) admissions criteria can be a way of ensuring that less affluent pupils from practising Catholic families do not lose out to families who are not practising but can afford to live in the very expensive streets around the Vaughan. This is why I disagree strongly with Jackie Parkes view on admissions. I can also testify from personal experience that the Catholic ethos does suffer when a large proportion of pupils are not sympathetic to Catholic teaching or ethos.

  11. I should add that I have a son at the school and can vouch for the fact that it is a truly wonderful Catholic school. The pupils say the Angelus every day , they go to Mass every weerk, they do the sign of the cross before every lesson. In the last two years two memebers of staff have left to train as priests and there is one vocation from a past pupil. There are very few school left like the Vaughan . My son has thrived there. Please pray that this school will not be destroyed by the ideologically driven CES.Why must all schools be exactly the same? The Vaughan is a very precious school and we must fight to preserve what is good.

  12. Excellent post. Thank you.

  13. Patricia
    You have my sympathy.
    My boys go to the London Oratory, and it seems the diocese do not have the same power to bully them as they are doing with The Vaughan. If they did, no doubt they would.
    I agree with you that the CES is driven by an ideology which is antithetical to that of schools like Cardinal Vaughan. It's very disturbing.
    I now home educate the younger ones, but a few years ago there was a very unpleasant situation at our local catholic primary school in which parents were bullied and threatened by the diocesean education department.
    There was also outright dishonesty.
    It was very sinister and shocking.
    Such an eye opener for many of us.