By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 January, 2015
Catholic schools are called to serve all pupils – especially the poor and most disadvantaged of society, the Primate of All Ireland said in a keynote address for Catholic Schools Week.
In a homily given in St Malachy’s Church in Armagh on Sunday, Archbishop Eamon Martin said he was pleased that academic selection will no longer be used as an entrance criterion for schools in the city.
The move away from the use of academic selection meant 24 of the 27 post primary schools in the Archdiocese of Armagh do not select pupils for admission by ability.
“I would like to work closely with the Boards of Governors of the three remaining grammar schools in the Archdiocese to encourage and help them find a way of ending academic selection in the near future,” Archbishop Martin stated.
He added that in this day and age “no young person should be turned away from a Catholic school on the basis of their mark in an entrance test at the age of ten or eleven”.
Dr Martin said he was “completely confident that these fantastic schools shall be able to continue their outstanding service to Catholic education without the use of academic selection”.
Elsewhere in his homily, he said Catholic schools must always be on the lookout for those who are being left behind or neglected in any way in the Catholic education system.
“The holy founders and foundresses of our Catholic schools were clearly inspired by a preferential option for the marginalised and poor,” he said.
He said Catholic schools “must always be alert to the inequalities in our educational system where too many of our young people, particularly the socially disadvantaged, leave without meaningful qualifications or opportunities; where the responsibility for children from the most deprived backgrounds, minority ethnic communities or for those with the greatest educational needs seems to fall unevenly on the shoulders of only some of our post-primary schools”.
The Primate also remarked that it is worrying that two thirds of young people in Northern Ireland from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are not getting 5 GCSEs at A*-C with English and Maths.
He noted that less than 20% of boys from socially disadvantaged background are achieving that standard.
“Too many of our young people are not making the transition to education, employment or training beyond the age of 16 and are ending up marginalised and often forgotten by the system. These are problems that concern us all,” he said.
These are problems to be shared and tackled by all of us, Archbishop Martin said and he referred to Pope Francis warning that “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice (EG. 201)”.