British education secretary praises Catholic schools for 175 years of service

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA


Bishop Marcus Stock, Nadhim Zahawi, and Paul Barber at CES event, Feb. 23, 2022. / CBCEW

Denver Newsroom, Mar 2, 2022 / 14:49 pm (CNA).

The British secretary for education recently praised Catholic schools on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Education Service, a body of the English and Welsh bishops that supports Catholic schools.

Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative member of Parliament who serves as Secretary of State for Education, spoke at a meeting with Catholic educators at Parliament Feb. 23.

“175 years is a significant achievement, so I just want to thank everyone in the room, and of course colleagues here who are so supportive of this extraordinary human endeavor and recognise the incredible valuable work that you do and have done and continue to on behalf of so many young people and staff in school across our country,” Zahawi said.

“You deserve high praise, since many of your schools serve some of our most diverse and disadvantaged communities where the challenges include reaching out to those families where neither parent may be in work or those for whom English is a second language – as it was for this Secretary of State.”

Zahawi concluded by saying he is “proud to call [the Church] my partner”.

Most Catholic schools in England receive government funding, with the Church covering about 10% of costs and the state providing the rest. CES says this arrangement saves taxpayers “tens of millions of pounds a year.”

Catholic schools make up 10% of the national total of state funded schools, according to CES, which represents about 850,000 students.

Despite the success of Catholic schools’ partnership with the government, the relationship has not always been completely smooth. For example, the CES has lobbied for several years against a 2010 regulation from the government that mandates that new Catholic schools must allocate at least 50% of their places to students of any religion.

The bishops have said that the rule effectively stops new government-funded Catholic schools from opening, as it violates canon law. In 2018, when the Conservative government of Theresa May decided not to lift the cap rule, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool said: “The Catholic Church has had a long and positive relationship with the State in the provision of education and we see today’s decision as a regressive step in this historic partnership.”

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