BHA: Catholic Education Service sets out its policies on its schools

In a new document, the Catholic Education Service has set out its policies around its schools, and explains why it provides them. The second edition of Christ at the Centre, which was published last week, sets out the evangelising mission of the Church with regards to pupils, and the stringent requirements placed on some staff, including whether or not they have married divorcees or had intimate relationships outside marriage.

Points in the document include:

·         In response to the question ‘Why does the Catholic Church provide schools?’, the document quotes Pope Benedict XVI: ‘Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.’

·         On ethnic diversity, the document says ‘Ethnic and racial diversity is, and always has been, a feature of the Catholic Church’s transnational presence, identity and membership. In Catholic schools, this ethnic and racial diversity finds unity in a common religious faith and produces the shared core human values which contribute to authentic social cohesion.’ In other words, the schools’ diversity in one sense is celebrated as being enhanced through its uniformity in another.

·         In response to the question, ‘Who are Catholic Schools provided for?’, the answer given is ‘Catholic Schools are provided by the Church for Catholic children and young people who, through baptism, have a right to an education in the Catholic faith.’ The need to provide sufficient school places to meet this ‘right’, in turn, is used for selection in admissions: ‘To ensure that Catholic children are given priority in the allocation of school places and benefit from this provision, the admission criteria of Catholic schools should be formulated in such a way that Catholic children and young people are always given priority in the allocation of school places over and above all other applicants’.

·         On employment, ‘The Bishops require that the Headteacher or Principal, Deputy Headteacher or Vice-Principal, and Head of RE/RE Co-ordinator must be practising Catholics. Preferential consideration should also be given to practising Catholics for all teaching posts and for non-teaching posts where there is a specific religious occupational requirement, i.e., chaplaincy post. In England and Wales statutory provision allows for such preferences to be made.’

·         In terms of what a ‘practicing Catholic’ is, certain ‘substantive life choices’ are defined to be ‘incompatible with the teaching of the Catholic Church’. This includes that ‘a Catholic contracting a marriage in a non-Catholic church, registry office or any other place without dispensation from canonical form; or contracting a marriage where one or both of the parties have been previously married (and whose former spouse[s] is[are] living) without the former marriage(s) being annulled or declared invalid by the Church’.

In addition, ‘maintaining a partnership of intimacy with another person, outside a form of marriage approved by the Church and which would, at least in the public forum, carry the presumption from their public behaviour of this being a non-chaste relationship; and, where such a presumption in the public forum is not repudiated by the parties within the relationship.’

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is clear that the Catholic Church sees its state funded schools as tools for evangelisation; sees them as being, first and foremost, for children of Catholics; and sees itself as having the right to interfere in the private lives and relationships of individuals whose salaries are paid for by the state. This latest publication sets out its policies more comprehensively than ever before.

‘We challenged its drive for more discriminatory schools in the High Court last year, and also got the European Commission to investigate whether UK employment laws for religious schools break European regulations – having submitted a complaint on this issue more than a year before anyone else. We have also been working to expose the falseness of their narrative around diversity of intake.

‘We will continue to press on these issues, locally, nationally and at the European level.’


For further comment or information, please contact BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson on 0781 55 89 636 or at

Read the new publication, Christ at the Centre:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

Read the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.