The Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, has a board of directors that are responsible for all the academies in the trust. The majority of the directors are appointed by the Bishop of Lancaster to ensure that:
- The Catholic ethos of the academies are retained and strengthened particularly with respect to a distinctive Religious Education curriculum, liturgy, collective worship and prayer
- The academies’ religious education and collective worship are regularly and separately inspected by the Diocese
- The Admission Policies of the academies will give priority to baptised Roman Catholic children as the current schools’ policies do.
The Multi Academy Trust is the employer of all the staff who work in the academies and retains the current commitment to appoint practising Catholics in the key leadership positions of head teachers, deputy head teachers and heads/co-ordinators of Religious Education. As per current expectations, all staff working in the academies are expected to support their Catholic ethos. The local governing bodies/academy boards also have the majority of members appointed by the Bishop of Lancaster.
These “non-negotiables” are written into the Articles of Association and Supplemental Agreement that forms the contractual arrangements which are enforceable in law. The Catholic Education Service has prepared documents alongside the Department for Education which addresses these key “non-negotiable” issues and these are highlighted in the Lancaster RC Diocese briefing paper on academies.
There is general acceptance across all Dioceses that certain rights afforded to Catholic schools are non negotiable and such was confirmed at the National Symposium held on 16 December 2010 attended by Archbishop Nichols, CESEW officers, representatives of the Bishops’ Conference and Diocesan Commissioners.
In more specific terms some of these rights include
- The legal recognition by the State of the Church’s position as a major voluntary provider of state funded education and its contribution of land and buildings to that end;
- The right of the Diocesan Bishop (or Religious Superior) to appoint the majority of the governors;
- The right to maintain Religious Education, liturgy, collective worship, prayer and the curriculum in accordance with the norms and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church;
- The right to appoint Catholic leaders and teachers;
- The right to secure an Admissions Policy which gives priority to baptised Roman Catholic children.
- The right to secure a separate inspection of Religious Education and Collective Worship
The ‘non-negotiables’ cannot by definition be set aside. The rights therein are at present protected by legislation in Voluntary Aided Schools as originally instanced in the 1944 Act.
(Diocese of Lancaster Education Service, Briefing Notes, Academies – Information & Analysis, 2012)
Sr. Margaret Atkins wrote a short paper for the Lancaster RC Diocese Academies Working Group discussing the possible dangers and opportunities of academy status for a school’s Catholic ethos. A copy of the document may be found at the link below (Adobe PDF, 58KB)