Modern Catholic Schools serve local communities well

Published: 28 February 2014

Former General Teaching Council for Scotland Chief Executive Anthony Finn gave the 2014 Cardinal Winning Lecture.

Former General Teaching Council for Scotland Chief Executive Anthony Finn gave the 2014 Cardinal Winning Lecture.

Following a survey of schools, Professor Finn, a former Headteacher and senior officer in Fife and now based in the University of Glasgow, analysed patterns of attendance and achievement in Catholic schools. His findings suggested that Catholic schools generally perform very well and are popular in the communities which they serve. And the current Catholic school population is certainly not limited to traditional Catholics, or even to those who no longer practice their religion. Increasingly, other Christians and those of no religious background are making a choice for a values-based education for their children.

Although the number of Catholics attending church services has decreased in recent years, there seems to be no shortage of parents who wish to enrol their children in Catholic schools, a number of which are now oversubscribed.

Tony Finn will use his talk to highlight issues which the Church and Catholic educators should review as its school population changes. He said:

I have suggested strongly that we should become more positive in talking about catholic education, stressing its value and its values and putting behind us any residual recidivist defence of an outdated image of the Catholic school. Instead, we should be very proud of the progress which has been made and the standards which have been attained by Catholic schools, progress which has offered life chances to Catholics which by far outweigh the aspiration of those responsible for the 1918 Act; progress which is now attractive to those of many faiths and none.  We should celebrate the fact that our schools generally offer admirable service to the communities which they serve, whether advantaged or disadvantaged, whether Catholic or of other faiths.

He called for Scotland to show maturity in promoting diversity in its school system.

“As Scotland prepares for a referendum in which it will decide whether it should become an independent state, mature enough to take its own decisions, our country must also be mature enough to accept that there is a continuing demand for denominational schools. A Scottish Government report has recently stated that there is no evidence at all that the presence of denominational schools helps to promote sectarianism. Catholic schools are not narrow or inward looking; they provide positive service to very wide communities. They never did and never could support such an evil prejudice. “

But he concluded with a reminder to the Church of its own responsibilities:

“And if our country needs to act maturely, so too does our church. Despite the Church’s difficulties in recent years, the Christian message still commands support from Catholics. Pope Francis has made an excellent start in changing the Church’s image, and so have Cardinal Vincent in England and Archbishop Tartaglia here in Glasgow. Let us accept the mistakes of the past, with humility and sorrow, and move forward to a fairer, more open and mature, less defensive Catholic church, which is a beacon for good in this country. “

Professor Finn ‘s talk was organised by the St Andrew’s Foundation in the University of Glasgow and was given in the Sir Charles Wilson Building on Saturday 1st March.




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Professor Anthony Finn

St Andrew's Foundation

Cardinal Winning Lecture



First published: 28 February 2014

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