The reply of the Catholic teachers to the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education that Catholics and other voluntary bodies have no right to have schools, was given at the annual conference of the Catholic Teachers' Federation, which was held in Birmingham on Thursday January 3. 1935.
It was pointed out that though the right was not conferred by Statute, it was confirmed by Statute, the Education Acts laying down the conditions of its exercise.
Most Rev. Dr. Williams, Archbishop of Birmingham, opening the conference, recalled the solution of the education problem suggested by Cardinal Bourne in 1926, and pointed out that that suggestion deserved Further consideration.
CARDINAL BOURNE'S SOLUTION OF THE EDUCATION DIFFICULTY.
From the Education Correspondent of the Catholic Times.”
Following the Conference Mass in St. Chad's Cathedral on Thursday morning, the Conference opened in St. Paul's High School. The De Profundis was recited for the repose of the soul of Cardinal Bourne by the Archbishop of Birmingham, who had held a reception of delegates in the Midland Hotel on the previous evening.
The 'Archbishop, who was supported by many clergy and by the Lord Mayor, the chairman, members and officials of the Birmingham Education Committee, recalled the suggestion for the solution of the education difficulty which had been made by Cardinal Bourne.
In 1926, he said, the Cardinal pleaded for a reconsideration of the whole position advocating, a return to national tradition, which offered choice of school, a privilege now enjoyed only by those who could pay for it, since - modern legislation on elementary education had practically deprived the f poorer class of liberty of choice of school. Hence, poor parents had ceased to take a personal interest in their children's education.
The Cardinal had pleaded for a settlement which would give to every parent some choice in the children's education- Beginning with the child, and not with the State, he would give to the children of parents who could not afford to pay a scholarship tenable at any recognised elementary school; the value of such scholarship would he based upon the local cost of education per head and the parent would be free to claim the use of this scholarship at any recognised school of his own choice in a defined area. Such a scheme showed clear thinking and a grasp of principles. The parent ought to be consulted, ought to be able to insist on definite religious teaching for his children. Thus, a new interest and a new sense of responsibility would be built upon the parent. This solution deserved further consideration.
THE FOUNDATION OF CULTURE.
His Grace, continuing, said Catholics were the defenders of Christianity, which was the foundation of our culture, our education, our civilisation and there was nothing dull or unromantic about orthodox Christianity. Catholic teachers would keep firmly to the principle that the basis of all education and culture was to be the Christian religion. This would give them a standard of judgment. Truth did not change, but teaching methods did. We should not fear new teaching methods.
'The catechism is, at present, the basis of our religious teaching but it was not always so; nor am I sure that it is always the best method of approaching the mind of a child."
But more important than the open mind was the open heart. We could never teach people anything unless we were in the right relationship with them, and the only right relationship for teachers wras friendliness. Elementary school children were compelled to attend school, their parents had little or no choice of school. It was easy to see how religious teaching might fail if this right relationship were lacking.
TEACHERS AND RE-ORGANISATION.
His Grace next urged teachers not to let prejudices stand in the way of the proper appreciation of the advantages of reorganised schools. "Remember," he said, "Religion is to be the basis of all our education. A senior school without religion is useless educationally. We want reorganised senior schools with religion."
Referring to the teaching of biology, the Archbishop said Catholics did not want it unnaturally divorced from religion nor associated with any falsehood about religion.
Mere knowledge alone never saved anyone from yielding to evil temptation. In fact, it often increased the strength of temptation... With knowledge must go example, the formation of character, the modelling of one's self and the children on the example of Christ Himself.
Children could not understand any but the simplest doctrinal teaching; their problems were problems of conduct, what they were to do, how they were to behave. Ideals had to be put before them and to be supported by the example of those who taught.
"Keep to the principle that the basis of all our education and culture is to be the Christian religion, and we shall educate children who will be determined to do the will of God, who will grow up to be men and women loving God and loving their fellow creatures for God's sake."
After the outgoing President, Mr. P. J. Doran, had thanked the Lord Mayor and the Archbishop, Mr. J. Craig (Salford), the new President, delivered his Presidential address.
GOD'S OWN GARDENERS.
Mr. Craig, having surveyed the present education position and pointed out the danger to Catholic schools if the leaving age was raised, said no Government dare openly dispute the right of parents to decide the kind of religious instruction they desire for their children. The Catholic schools were the nurseries of the Catholic Faith and the teachers were God's own gardeners. The teachers must spend their lives sowing the ideals which would govern the future conduct of their lives. Catholic teachers would never agree to allow their pupils to come under non- Catholic influences at their most plastic period.
FURTHER FINANCIAL AID.
The first resolution "That this Conference urges further financial aid to non-provided schools" was moved by Mr. W. O'Dea, M.B.E. (Salford) who said that, if Catholics received an additional grant of 60 per cent, of the present costs, the difference between the costs of 1902 and the present would not be covered. He urged that extra grants should come from the State for the purpose of equalising the position of schools and that the question of the appointment of teachers need not be raised. Mr. W. J. Timms (Manchester), seconding, said that further financial aid must come from the Central Authority, but the Local Education Authorities could help by being sympathetically disposed towards Catholics. The resolution was carried unanimously.
THE RAMSBOTHAM MEMORANDUM.
The next resolution was, "This Conference is of opinion that, as by Statute, Catholics have the right to provide schools for all Catholic children of school age in the area to be covered by a proposed new school, it is a gross injustice that the Board of Education should limit such new schools to juniors only; and that any school which is to be reconditioned should retain its type and status unless the Managers desire a change." Proposing, Mr. T. Meehan (Birmingham) claimed that Catholics had always exercised the right to build new schools and, where they had the means, they had recently built new central and reorganised schools. However the problem of providing new and separate schools for juniors and seniors, particularly in the new housing areas is costly and wasteful to a poor community which received no aid towards building from the State or the Local Education Authorities. The problem was not one of finance only.
He questioned the need for Local Authorities to build schools which would accommodate all the school children of a district irrespective of the wishes of the parents who might desire to send their children to Voluntary schools. Was this policy designed merely- to render proposed new Catholic schools unnecessary?
Seconding, Mr. T. Quirk (Liverpool) referred to Mr. Ramsbotham's recently published Memorandum, and maintained that of the three considerations which determined the necessity or otherwise of new schools, namely, the interests of secular instruction, the economy of the rates and the wishes of the parents, the last was not only of greater weight than each of the others, but of both the others combined. In support of this generally accepted view he quoted Lord Eustace Percy, a former President of the Board of Education.
OUR RIGHT TO HAVE SCHOOLS.
Catholics and other bodies representing parents, had an anterior, moral right to have their own schools; this right they had always exercised and, although the right was not conferred by Statute, still it was confirmed by Statute by the very fact that the Education Acts laid down conditions for its exercise. Thus, Section 18 of Education Act 1921 (repeating Section 8 (1) of 1902) stated that:
"Where the Local Education Authority or any other persons propose to provide a new public elementary school, they shall give public notice of their intention to do so, and the managers of any existing school, or the Local Education Authority or any ten ratepayers, may,... .within three months after the notice, appeal to the Board of Education, on the ground that the proposed new school is not required, or that a school provided by the Local Education Authority or not so provided, as the case maybe, is better suited to meet the wants of the district and any school provided in contravention of the decision of the Board of Education on such appeal shall be treated as unnecessary."
Schools worn out through long years of service in the nation's cause, and hence black-listed, should be reconditioned ar the cost of the State. Reconditioning was a costly business and when Catholics once again took up the nation's burden and attempted to recondition schools, that was not the time for the Board, nor had the Board the power, to insist on reorganisation. Yet, the speaker believed that the Board of Education was sympathetic towards Catholic schools, but the Board wanted Hadow schools.
The first step towards Catholic acceptance of Hadow principles (since they had at present to pay for the buildings) was the provision of all-age school? where asked for.
Messrs. F. McCabe (Middlesbrough) and F. McDonnell (Liverpool) moved the insertion of the words "a gross injustice" and, the resolution as amended was carried unanimously.
- Malaya Catholic Leader, January 26th, 1935 (1935.pdf pp41)