One former non-Catholic pupil writes about her experience in a Catholic School and wonders if we lose them who will provide the necessary formation for Catholic youngsters? The article from The Tablet blog is reproduced here:

“When I started secondary school at my local Catholic comprehensive about ten years ago  it had just changed its name from “convent” to “high school” because the dwindling community of nuns who had run it for generations had just left.

I am not a Catholic but I come from a Christian background. My first impression of the school was of a one that held key aspects of Catholicism such as serving and caring for those in need as paramount within the school community. The uniform itself was emblazoned with the logo of a crest containing the word ‘Serviam’ displayed on the jumper and blazer, meaning “I will serve”. Academic standards and morale were high, we worked hard. Regardless of religious or cultural background, this was a value that every member of the student body could uphold.

We went on retreat once or twice a year; the school chaplain celebrated Mass once a term and for Christmas and Easter. Attendance at these was compulsory, although participation was not. As a non-Catholic, I found them very meaningful, as it essentially reminded the student body of the kind of school we attended – one that held Catholic values as central to the school’s ethos. And regardless of pupils’ personal opinion or religious upbringing, they generally respected the Mass.

However as I progressed towards the end of my academic career there, the level of involvement of Catholic practices dwindled, I think, in order to broaden the school’s appeal. There were fewer Masses and retreat days. It became an increasingly secularised school that incorporated the Catholic faith but no longer emphasised Catholicism as a central focus of the school. But academic standards have slipped and the school is to become an academy. In my view the religious ethos helped to maintain the academic standards. In retrospect, I view this as quite disappointing: it causes me to wonder, if we can no longer depend on Catholic schools to hold Catholicism as an integral part of forming young people, then apart from local parishes, who can we trust?”

Shona Bailey Freelance Journalist