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Victory in fight over transport subsidies for pupils

A CATHOLIC secondary school in Surrey has won a battle to prevent cuts to subsidised transport for its pupils, writes Sam Adams.

Salesian School in Chertsey was told by Surrey County Council earlier this year that it could lose eight scheduled bus routes and subsidised transport for its students. The move would have

affected nearly 300 pupils, with many families unable to afford the extra costs. However, following a campaign led by Salesian’s deputy head teacher, Ciran Stapleton – which included gathering a 3, 645-name petition against the subsidy cut – Mr Stapleton said the council has now promised to maintain the bus routes and to retain subsidised transport for all current pupils. The decision comes as church schools in at least 16 local authority areas across England and Wales face cuts to discretionary subsidised transport, as councils seek to make budget savings. The issue has concerned the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CES) which announced earlier this month that it is to seek legal advice on the matter. Despite Salesian’s campaign, subsidised transport for children attending faith schools in Surrey will nevertheless be cut for new entrants from September 2012. Mr Stapleton says he intended to discuss ways of providing alternative sources of transport funding for future pupils from poorer families with the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. A spokeswoman for Surrey County Council said that the original plan to cut Salesian’s bus routes was intended to address an historic anomaly and to bring it in line with other schools in Surrey.

32 | THE TABLET | 2 July 2011

Bishops scrap Here I Am catechesis course

Sam Adams

CATECHESIS INCatholic schools is set for an overhaul, with a new programme due to be made avail- able across England and Wales from the end of next year. Here I Am, the course cur- rently used in many primary schools, has been found to be “outdated” during a consultation involving bishops, diocesan RE advisers and schools, and will be replaced in many dioceses by a revised programme called Come and See. The new programme is designed to be more accessible for people from non-Catholic backgrounds, after a decline in the number of Catholic teachers in Catholic primary schools. The first edition of Here I Am was introduced in 1992 with an updated version published in 2000. The course, which was developed by a group of RE advisers and teachers, has been criticised by opponents for being “doctrine-light”, with too great a concentration on class discussion, story telling and reflection, rather than textbook-based study. Come and See, which is being

developed by a steering group headed

by the Bishop of

Wrexham, Edwin Regan, will be used in Catholic primary schools and is expected to include more background information on the- ology and an enhanced interfaith section. More than two-thirds of dioceses have indicated that they will either use or recommend the use of Come and See when it is published – although there are currently no plans to replace Icons, the catechesis programme currently used in many Catholic secondary schools. Bishop Regan said that Here I Am remained a “good tool” for teachers with a good understand- ing of Catholicism, but that it required updating in terms of presentation. “We consider [Here I Am] to be effective, and it has the doctrine. It just needs a bigger degree of commitment from the teacher,” he said. “Come and See is designed to be easier to understand and more accessible, but without losing any of the teaching on the story of the faith and the story of the Church.” Several dioceses, including Birmingham, Lancaster and Leeds, have already replaced Here I Am with a different programme for catechesis called The Way, the Truth and the Life. Supporters of the latter say they favour it

because of its greater “theological integrity”, and the continuity it offers by providing learning for children between the ages of three and 14. Mike Castelli, who is principal

lecturer in education at Roe - hampton University, defended Here I Am as “more child-centred than The Way, the Truth and the Life”.

“It invites children to come and share the story of the faith, and experience it for themselves,” he said. “The Way, the Truth and the Life takes a more didactic approach, which says ‘this is the official story, you must engage with this’. It would be a shame if Come and See was a move in that direction.”

Bishops can choose to use

whatever catechesis programmes they wish in their dioceses, with the national RE curriculum direc- tory for Catholic schools used as a guide. A new version of the directory, which outlines the key objectives of RE teaching in Catholic schools in England and Wales, is expected to be published by the bishops’ conference in 2012. Bishop Regan said that parts of Come and See had already been successfully trialled in schools.

Schools are killing off RE, survey finds

HUNDREDS OFschools, includ- ing some Catholic and Church of England schools, are flouting their legal requirement to teach religious education, new research has found, writes Christopher Lamb.

A poll of almost 2,000 second-

ary schools shows that a fifth of them will not teach sufficient RE to pupils aged between 14 and 16 in the current academic year, and that non-compliance is set to rise to over 30 per cent in academies by next year. For pupils aged between 11 and 14, almost 10 per cent of schools

are not providing the required amount of RE teaching. It is a requirement for state schools to provide religious edu- cation under the 1988 Education Reform Act. While the majority of Catholic and Church of England schools presently abide by this provision, the poll shows that in the next academic year 15 Catholic and 12 Church of England schools will not maintain their statutory requirement for 14- to 16-year-olds. At Key Stage 3, which covers 11- to 14-year- olds, 18 Catholic schools acknowledge that they are not

meeting the required provision. The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), which commissioned the research, said that religious education in schools is “being killed off ”. The poll also shows that fol- the

lowing Government’s

omission of religious studies from the EBacc (or English Baccalaureate) there has been a decline of more than a third in the number of pupils planning to take the subject at GCSE level in academies, community schools and grammar schools.

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