Catholic Schools (UK)
In the United Kingdom, there are many 'local authority maintained' (i.e. state funded) Catholic schools. These are theoretically open to pupils of all faiths or none, although if the school is over-subscribed priority will be given to Catholic children.
Pupils follow the same curriculum as in other schools, with the one exception of Religious Education, which is compulsory until Year 12 (AS level) when one can drop it. The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are generally given prominence in lessons, and the degree of prominence given to other faiths is largely dependent on the school. To teach in a Catholic school, teachers (who are already fully qualified) must (at least in theory) be approved by the Roman Catholic Church (usually the local bishop). In the past, this meant that to teach in Catholic schools one had to be a Catholic, and possess the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies; however, this practice has fallen out of favour- on both equality and practical grounds, as many schools began to suffer a shortage of high-quality teachers. Senior management positions are still reserved for practising Catholics.
There has been some controversy over Catholic schools. Some Labour backbenchers would like to see them closed along with all other faith-based schools, and this was the official policy of the Scottish Green Party at the 2007 Scottish Parliament election. Some local authorities - particularly in Lanarkshire - have chosen to build so-called 'shared campuses' where a Catholic and non-denominational school share grounds, a building, and facilities such as canteen, sport halls etc., but lessons are taught separately. This policy has had mixed success—although supporters say it reduces the risk of 'us and them' sectarianism, some shared campuses have suffered disruptions on opening. At one stage the Scottish Catholic Church even considered unprecedented legal action against North Lanarkshire Council to stop another 'shared campus' being built.
There are also a number of Catholic Independent Schools, mostly founded by religious orders, that provide fee-paying education. They include both day and boarding schools.
The Catholic Education Service provides the central co-ordination under the Bishops' Conference for Catholic schools in England and Wales.
In Northern Ireland, Roman Catholic schools are state-funded and organised and run by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
St Benet Biscop Catholic High School (now St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy) in Northumberland became the first school in the United Kingdom to establish its own, fully functioning business, Benet Enterprises. The School is a typical example of an over-subscribed school due to its high academic performance and reputation in the local area. As such, Catholic students are given priority, whilst all others are interviewed. Because of the fact that it is the only Catholic High School in Northumberland, students are transported into School by bus, meaning that non-Catholic students, by default, have to pay a substantial fee for attendance. This has caused much controversy and debate over the fairness of this system, with the headmaster commenting that if the School continued in this manner it would be a fee-paying school in all but name.
- BBC News - Church examining schools decision (retrieved Monday 12 December 2005)
- BBC News - Council dampens campus fears (retrieved Monday 12 December 2005)
- Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (Northern Ireland) (retrieved 19 June 2007)