From a series of newsletters: Head teacher John Boyce explores his vision of Catholic education.
Fifteen hundred years ago St Augustine said “Never be so foolish as to send your children to learn what the teacher thinks!”
Teachers help students to learn facts, develop skills, to develop a feel for language and number, and what is right. But we don’t tell them what to think. We work to help children become responsible, caring, fully alive adults and citizens through the standards we set, by holding each person responsible for their actions, by the examples we set in the way we treat each other, through the ways we help students to find out things for themselves and do things for themselves. We work to help our students learn what is right and must be defended – and what is wrong and to be challenged.
Catholic schools try to help students to take more responsibility for their own development and our schools have hundreds of stories about students testing themselves, taking on additional challenges, working really hard to produce excellence on their own and in groups, and using their initiative to help others. We look for ways to encourage students to take responsibility for helping their community become a better one.
The idea of an “informed conscience” is an old one in Catholic tradition. It is one that Catholic schools work very hard on. These days the world tells our young people that they should do what feels right for them.
Our message is that there are rules for the good of everyone. We believe that there are “right” ways of behaving – and consciously help students build those into their characters.
Religious Education is the foundation of the Catholic character of our schools. This is where students learn explicitly about the Gospel, Catholicism and Christianity, and the implications of that in a life well lived. It is where they learn the principles that underpin what we do individually and as a school. It is where they name and define the values that they will hold for the rest of their lives; values that help them make their own contribution towards the special character of the school and their communities. And that contribution makes the special character of a Catholic school dynamic and progressive: our young people are constantly re-defining it through their own idealism, understanding, and intuition.
So, from a Catholic school parents can expect high standards and strong discipline. You can expect teachers, students themselves, and parents to be involved in the formation of the young adult. You can expect challenges whenever the commandment of love is broken in big or small ways. And, as they move through the school, you can expect young people to be challenged more and more to think for themselves and take responsibility for their actions, and for their own education and development as Christian people.