The Diocese of Westminster Education Commission launched its academy strategy at a meeting with headteachers and governors from most of the schools of the diocese last Thursday.
Following various government proposals over the last few years to encourage most schools to become academies, the Education Service has engaged in an extensive consultation with schools, colleges, and existing academies and Academy Trusts in the diocese to propose a way forward that would ensure schools in the diocese can continue to provide an exceptional education that keeps the well-being every child at the centre.
Addressing the meeting, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said that "since 1850 schools have been central to the life and mission of the Church" in the diocese.
He acknowledged that this mission has "always involved a changing and challenging" environment and that the current situation was no exception. "We are called to work together to seek the flourishing of all our schools and colleges in face of the current challenges and opportunities," he added.
John Paul (JP) Morrison, the Director of the Education Service, outlined a strategy that would see Catholic schools interested in converting to academy status being grouped in family clusters in their deaneries and local areas, where proximity "will allow for better collaboration, and opportunities to develop more tangible, durable and sustainable partnerships" among the schools and with the local parishes.
These Catholic Academy Trusts (CATs) will also allow for greater development opportunities in teaching, leadership and management. Joining together will also provide CATs with greater autonomy in purchasing services, which is critical at a time when available funding is diminishing.
A Project Board will be set up to help in this transition to academies in the coming months and years.
"I must stress that there will be no forced academisation," explained Morrison. "Each school will be invited to consider the best way forward."
"Our purpose is to provide the very best opportunities for the Catholic child, family and all those thousands of people who work tirelessly every day to achieve the witness to faith and academic excellence in our schools and colleges. Our strategy is to strive for a future that protects, secures and develops Catholic education."
Source: Archbishops House