The Catholic school landscape

Chris Richardson

Catholic schools are admired by many and criticised by a few. This article argues that any assessment of the merits of Catholic schools should take into account the environment within which they operate. Chris Richardson is a retired Catholic secondary headteacher and diocesan commissioner. He is currently associate lecturer in Catholic school leadership at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Catholic schools play a significant role in the provision of education in England and Wales. They are popular and successful. However, even though the landscape within which they operate may not be hostile, neither is it benign. The terrain that bishops and headteachers have to negotiate is challenging, and it is perhaps a useful exercise to try and outline some of the cultural, ecclesial and personal obstacles around which they must manoeuvre.

Cultural challenges
The cultural climate is unsupportive of faith. Increasing numbers of people claim to have no religion. This appears to be getting worse generation by generation.1 The media tends to treat religious belief as quaint at best, more often ridiculous and at worst harmful.

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