Archbishop Nichols to address Heythrop conference on education

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, will address a one-day conference at Heythrop College, University of London, this Wednesday. The theme of the event will be Education and Young People, and the archbishop will be joined by the British Jesuit Provincial, Fr Michael Holman SJ, and others concerned with the well-being of young people.

The conference follows a series of high profile killings in London and elsewhere in the country over the past few years, which Fr Holman considered in an article in The Tablet last summer. As the former headmaster of Wimbledon College, he criticised the way that 'schools are submerged under a sea of targets and objectives', making it difficult for them to find the time to teach pupils 'values and virtues' which ultimately help them to feel that they matter and they are valued.

'This is not just about young people and the way some of them are drawn to violence. This is about the nature of our society, the foundation of our prosperity, the way we live now, and its consequences for young people's happiness and for family life,' wrote Fr Holman. 'Can education play its part in attending to this malaise or is it part of the problem? Children grow up best within a clear framework of values and virtues, and in all the trouble and difficulty of teaching them, young people instinctively understand that they are loved and that they matter. It can be extremely difficult to communicate these values given the extent to which schools are submerged under a sea of targets and objectives.'

The Jesuit Provincial's letter prompted a response from the General Secretary of Pax Christi, Pat Gaffney, in which she wrote: 'Pax Christi sees an urgent need for a dialogue directed at delivering hope and opportunities for our young people ... We would welcome an opportunity to gather with others for a national church consultation focused on overcoming violence and creating a culture of peace for our children.' The Education and Young People conference is seen as part of that 'national church consultation'.

Ms Gaffney will be one of the panellists on Wednesday afternoon at Heythrop College, alongside the college's Vice Principal, Peter Vardy, Leo Chamberlain OSB (former headmaster of Ampleforth College) and the Jesuit Provincial. The discussion will be chaired by Dr James Hanvey SJ, and will follow a presentation by Jesuit psychologist, Fr Roger Dawson SJ, the assistant chaplain to the University of Oxford.

The Education and Young People conference at Heythrop will start at 10am on Wednesday, 3 June, with Archbishop Nichols considering 'Education and Catholic Schools Today'. This will be followed at 11.30am by Father Holman, who will be taking as his theme: 'Our Children, Our Society and Our Schools: Something Wrong That Needs To Be Put Right?'

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