Sunday, 17 April 2011

A lost battle but the moral high ground belongs to the Vaughan Parents

Westminster Diocese issued a press release following its win in the court last week over the Cardinal Vaughan Action Group who were fighting to keep the school Catholic in the sense of its admissions policy.

This release does not square with the CVAG account of things so they have produced their own account.....You may read Westminster's in its entirety on For some reason it would not copy and paste onto this post.


The Diocese of Westminster displayed a statement concerning the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School on its website today, Thursday 14 April. The statement contained serious inaccuracies in some places and was misleading in others:

DIOCESAN ALLEGATION 1: The Court of Appeal has clarified the law relating to the appointment of Foundation Governors to the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School.

VPAG RESPONSE: all three Appeal Judges made the point strongly that the wording of the Instrument of Government dealing with the appointment of Foundation Governors is NOT clear, and the fact that the three judges interpreted it differently demonstrates this lack of clarity. The VPAG will lobby Michael Gove to clarify this point.

DIOCESAN ALLEGATION 2: We regret the wasteful court action brought against the Archbishop of Westminster by a number of parents associated with the Vaughan Parents Action Group.VPAG RESPONSE: the court action was NOT brought by parents associated with the VPAG, or by the VPAG itself. It was bought by the school’s Parent Governors, who were gravely concerned about the way the Diocese had manipulated the Governing Body. The VPAG was formed some considerable time after the court action was begun.

The funds for the Parent Governors’ action were raised by voluntary donations from parents, pupils and friends of the school. The Diocese’s legal funding came from lay Catholics across the Diocese.

DIOCESAN ALLEGATION 3: It is important to note that the ‘Vaughan Parents’ Action Group’ is not supported by the School. It is not to be confused with the Vaughan Parents’ Association, which is the recognised parents’ association. Rather it is a campaign whose leaders include two former Governors of the school and the former Headmaster.
VPAG RESPONSE: the VPAG is a properly-constituted sub-committee of the VPA and enjoys the overwhelming support of the school’s parents and pupils.  Staff are employed by the Governing Body, the majority of whose members are appointed by the Diocese; they are in no position to express an opinion one way or the other. Over 1500 people recently signed a petition supporting the VPAG’s aims and opposing the Diocese’s actions, and around 1000 people have attended two prayer vigils organised by the VPAG in support of the school and opposing the Diocese’s behaviour. The former Headmaster and ONE former Governor are patrons, not leaders of the VPAG.

DIOCESAN ALLEGATION 4: (the judgment)… means that at least two Foundation Governors must either be parents if (sic) current or former pupils of the school, or have children of or below compulsory school age.

VPAG RESPONSE: this is contrary to how the Instrument of Government was outlined on the Diocese’s own website last year (at the time of the controversial appointments). THE DIOCESE HAS SINCE REMOVED THE PRINCIPLES OF CASCADING QUALIFICATION FROM ITS WEBSITE, AND THIS HAS SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS FOR ALL VOLUNTARY-AIDED SCHOOLS. If this ruling is enforced, malign trustees can use the same loophole the Diocese of Westminster has exploited in order to avoid appointing parents of current pupils as Foundation Governors – in effect they can appoint anyone they like as long as they have school-age children.

DIOCESAN ALLEGATION 5: Current parents will continue to be fully represented on the Governing Body of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School as elected parent governors.
VPAG RESPONSE: parents will not be “fully represented”. The school will have to continue without any Foundation Governors with children at the school, despite the intention of Government to ensure that at least two FG’s are current parents. As long as the Diocese-appointed Foundation Governors enjoy a majority of 11 to 9 on the Governing Body, the five Parent Governors have little or no chance of winning important votes. This is why the VPAG was formed: to push for full and proper representation of the parents of current pupils. We will lobby to close the loophole that the Diocese has exploited to load the Foundation with its own ‘placemen’ and continue to oppose the Diocese’s attempts to dilute the Catholic ethos and make fundamental and damaging changes to the school.

Finally, we would also point to this statement by Appeal Judge Sir Richard Buxton, who supported the Parent Governors’ case:

“With appropriate deference, none of the matters reviewed in paragraphs 18-29 deflect me from the conclusion reached in paragraph 16 above. On the true construction of the legislation the failure to continue the term of the two Foundation Governors who were current parents, and the appointment in September 2010 of the new governors, has resulted in the overall constitution of the Governing body not complying with the law, as it does not contain two Foundation Governors who have been shown to have been at the date of their appointment eligible for election or appointment as Parent Governors.”

The VPAG, and the school’s parents and all its supporters, will continue to protest at the actions of the Diocese of Westminster, and will continue a very public and open campaign, including letters and emails of protest to the Vatican.

We will not be moved.

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