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Bishop warns schools not to prioritise league tables

By Sarah Mac Donald - 01 February, 2016


Bishop Donal McKeown has warned that there is so much pressure on schools to achieve results that some are tempted to “cull pupils who will affect the school’s ability to prove how successful it is”.

In his homily on Sunday at the start of Catholic Schools Week, the Bishop of Derry told schools that if their main measure of success is the criteria that civic society proposes – high exam results, successful past pupils – then they may have missed the point of what disciples of Christ are called to do.

He also warned that if being a Catholic school is not difficult, then maybe the school is not really Catholic.

Setting out some of the challenges facing schools, he said school timetables are so packed that staff may believe they are unable to give too much time to troubled children.

“And there is always the parental and state pressure to play down the role of Christ – and worship at the great God of League Tables. At Open Nights, it is easier to speak about success than to major on mercy,” he criticised.

However Dr McKeown said he had heard of schools that have reintegrated drug dealers and arsonists into the school community “because the pupils’ needs were more important that instinctive reaction of many in the school”.

Underlining that there is much need for mercy in our society – urban and rural, the Bishop said there are many people are hurting, wounded by others or disappointed at themselves.

“Some find it very hard to be at peace with their neighbour or with their past. Even sport can be very aggressive and confrontational.”

“In a culture where success, strength and appearances are prized, we learn to prize these as signs of how valuable our lives are,” but he added that Jesus challenges our schools to prize mercy over “an educational mannequin parade”.

He reminded schools that students will remember them more for how they treated them in a time of crisis rather than the nice things that they may have talked about in class.

Referring to Pope Francis’ advice to school, Bishop McKeown said the Pope had said that one of the great shames of education around the world is that ‘education has become too selective and elitist. It seems that only those peoples and individuals with a certain level or a certain capacity have a right to education.’

The Bishop challenged Catholics schools, “Do we preach mercy or just meritocracy?”

He said a Catholic school which offers an integrated approach to the curriculum and to the human person, is a humanising school.

“It will not mercilessly sacrifice children on the altar of Me or of League Tables. It will prepare child for adult life and not just for school leaver exams. It will not make us slaves of the market that values only what it can measure.”

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