Contemporary Perspectives on Catholic Education edited by John Lydon, Gracewing, 190pp, £20
One of the regular struggles of parish clergy today is trying to recruit practising Catholics to undertake roles in school governance. Expectations and levels of accountability are higher than ever before and many good people simply feel that it is too daunting a prospect to undertake.
The 13 essays in this book by prominent thinkers and practitioners within Catholic education are helpfully and accessibly structured into three themes: context; religious education and leadership; and governance.
At the heart of the book is the theme of mission, and there is a strong emphasis on how our schools should play a part within the wider work of evangelisation.
The idea of a spiritual capital which has been developed over many generations is explained with a warning that this may be eroded by factors such as the reduction in the number of Catholic teachers and pupils within our schools. The challenge is to ensure that this inherited gift is renewed for this generation and passed on into the next.
The book recognises the cultural pressure which seeks to turn headteachers into corporate leaders and managers, but also provides an antidote, with models which centre on the leadership of Christ and his servanthood. This seeks to provide a vision of Catholic leadership which challenges practices, rooted in market forces, that are alien to the core of Catholic tradition.
With this in mind, there is a strong emphasis on dialogue between our rich Catholic tradition of education and the much more transitional and fluid secular educational landscape.
An important area for exploration would have been around the abuse crisis which has blighted the Church and a number of Catholic schools over the last few years. The impact of this cannot be ignored as it has influenced how Catholic schools are sometimes perceived.
Fr Matthew Pittam is chairman of governors in a Catholic school as well as the author of Building the Kingdom in the Classroom: A School Chaplain’s Diary (St Pauls)