Wednesday 27 November 2013

#BlogSync: What is the role of the family in young people’s education? (RC Focus)

It's always best to state you are going off on a tangent before you do.

For this month's #blogsync, I've decided to write a short reflection on the distinct and slightly different relationship that faith schools have with the family. I have worked in Catholic schools for eight years, but also have experience in community schools and CoE public schools. Perhaps despite the journey, the conclusions are nevertheless similar.

The traditional relationship for students in a Catholic school is often summarised as being this:

There is an important distinction that must be made at this point, 'the education' and 'the education in the faith'. By parents selecting a Catholic school, they are subscribing to the decision that these will generally take place simultaneously. This is not necessarily the case in all lessons, at all times - you'd be surprised how much that goes on in a Catholic school is very similar to what goes on in other schools. 

Now the Church see parents as the primary educators: 

"The first educators in the faith are parents... By their example in the home and in their participation in the Mass and other sacraments, the foundations of life-long faith and discipleship in their children are laid down." (Statement on Religious Education in Catholic Schools - issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, n.2)

How about if this was tweaked, and by that I mean secularised: "The first educators are parents... by their example in the home and in their participation in educational activities, the foundations of life-long development and citizenship in their children are laid down."

Are you buying it?

So what happens, when the family are not the primary educators? In faith? In education? In reading? In basic manners? In being a decent citizen?

"The Option For the Poor"

Concern for the poor, outcasts and the disadvantaged has always been a priority for Christians, and as a result Catholic schools. The bible contains many references to individuals, and on social justice, and God’s deep concern for both. There are clear biblical foundations for service to the poor and how such a service should be an important part in the lives of all Christians:

“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Indeed, Jesus makes it very clear that he is present in the poor and disadvantaged of this world. Any Catholic school must always remember this core idea when dealing with the outcast, disadvantaged, troublesome or poor: it is here that Christ is truly present:

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Gravissimum Educationis, the Vatican’s first key document on Christian education, made it clear that indeed the Church should be offering its educational service, and offering it to: “…the poor or those who are deprived of family help and affection or those who are far from the faith” (Pope Paul VI, 1965).

The 1970's saw Catholic school enter an era of a 'new poor'. It was not necessarily a provision for migrant families in northern cities, but a widespread need to intervene throughout England and Wales to help a wide range of families.

In  the 21st Century world that many students of Catholic schools are existing in, perhaps ‘the poor’ are those who come from one-parent families, those born to unmarried couples, those struggling with their parents divorce or even coming from violent homes. By no means exclusively, nor necessarily, these children may well come to school being ‘emotionally poor’ suffering a lack of love, hope, trust and stability in their young lives. A final consideration of ‘the poor and disadvantaged’ could also be the ever increasing number of SEN students; individuals with a wide spectrum of needs that succeed with varying degrees within the education system.

So what?

Increasingly the school is becoming the primary educator, not only for the faith, but potentially for a whole range of different things.

Where parents are supportive and encouraging to the vision of the school, we are all working together and great things are being achieved. Where parents and families will not, or cannot, work with our vision, there is tension. Despite the frustrations of the teacher, ultimately it is the child who suffers the most. 

I believe all teachers need to consider 'the poor' in their school, whoever they are, and do all they can to help combat the potential damage caused by home situations. These situations will hopefully pass, and improve, but the moment of education, the potential to achieve GCSE passes aged 16 (the BEST time), the time to master basic numeracy and literacy, will all unfortunately pass.

I think it's also important to remember that most parents do love their child and do want their child to succeed, even if they have very odd ways of showing it. 

Never give up, the troublesome student in front of us, who has come to school for a break, loves being in our company despite being an absolute nightmare. Maybe we just have to go the extra mile to combat the other damaging influences in their life. 

However it always make me feel like a failure when we have to say enough is enough, goodbye. The children I have seen excluded from Catholic schools have always had the most horrific home lives, and we failed. We couldn't manage to keep them with us long enough.

Read more of the BlogSync here:

No comments:

Post a Comment