As part of my research for this year’s Catholic Good Schools Guide 2020/2021, I visited a wonderful girls’ boarding school in rural Dorset, where I was shown around by two A-Level pupils who brimmed with an infectious enthusiasm for life. Just three months later, St Mary’s Shaftesbury announced it was closing down due to ongoing financial pressures, which had finally come to a head during the lockdown. We would like to send our heartfelt prayers to the girls, teachers and parents who have been affected by this sad news.
While we are one school down in our Catholic Good Schools Guide, we also have some new and welcome additions to the list, including Thornton College in Milton Keynes and St Mary’s School, Cambridge. Also new this year is the inclusion of prep schools. For now we have compiled a snapshot of five, each with a distinctive character and an impressive ability to blend Catholicism seamlessly into the daily life of the school.
Finally, as a nod to the many outstanding Catholic academies in this country, we have chosen to profile four to give a sense of the brilliant work these institutions do in providing children of mixed backgrounds and abilities with a solid foundation based on Catholic values to prepare them for adulthood. There are of course many more, and we are always keen to hear from those who believe they deserve a mention.
In our features section, we hear from teacher Sophia Waugh who says the past six months have been anything but an extended holiday for her profession, despite what has been reported in the press. Also, Rachel Kelly looks at the short and long term psychological impact school closures will have had on our children, and offers some much needed practical advice, including saying the Serenity Prayer, which has worked wonders for her children.
Next, we hear from another teacher, Oswald O’Neill, about the moral dilemma that schools with interests in China are now facing. Finally, and on a happier note, Arabella Byrne writes about the minefield that is taking toddlers to Mass, and suggests some tried and tested methods of getting them to behave.
After what has been a difficult few months for our schools, I hope our Catholic Good Schools Guide will offer some positive reading at the start of the new school year.