Cardinal Winning Lecture 2024

The title of this year's Cardinal Winning Lecture is Catholic Schools: In an increasingly secular context, who are we and what is our role?

The speaker is Philip Robinson, Chief Inspector of Catholic Schools for England & Wales.

It takes place on Saturday 20 April 2024 from 11.15am -12.30pm at the Saltire Lecture Theatre 438AB, James McCune Smith Building, University Avenue, Glasgow.

Holy Mass will precede the lecture in the University Chapel at 9:30am.

 Reserve your place:

Philip Robinson

Philip took up the post of Chief Inspector to the Catholic Schools Inspectorate in July of 2023.

Prior to that, and for the last ten years, he served as the Religious Education Adviser to the Catholic Education Service which acts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to promote and sustain Catholic education in the 2,209 Catholic schools in that province. Before that he was the religious education adviser for the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.

Prior to both advisory roles he was a teacher of religious education for fourteen years, including five years leading an ‘outstanding religious education department’. In addition to his professional commitments, Philip is also currently in the final year of his doctoral studies, focusing on the question of how Catholic religious education can remain authentically Catholic while still meeting the external societal and legal demands that are placed upon it.

Catholics urged to respond to sex education consulation

The Scottish Government has removed all reference to Catholic schools in a draft document that will be used in sex and reationships education in classrooms. 

Now Catholics are being urged to respond to a consultation to ensure their voice is heard. Respond to the consulation here (or see guidance at bottom of this article).

The guidance has created concern among denominational schools that it will undermine their ethos and autonomy despite the guidance itself stating that Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) education has a central role in promoting the ethos of the school, writes The Catholic Herald.

The new guidance, which is issued under section 56 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Act 2000, is designed to replace earlier guidance issued in 2014. A public consultation on the draft is due to end on 23 November 2023. See end of this article on how to respond.

Of particular concern is the removal of paragraphs 38-41 under the sub-heading “Denominational Education” which explicitly protects the rights of Catholic schools to provide sex education in line with the Catholic ethos.

Bishops' response

This omission resulted in a strong rebuke from the Scottish Bishops:

“The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland is both disappointed and confused at the decision by the Scottish Government to delete all reference to Catholic schools in its ‘Guidance on the Delivery of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) Education in Scottish Schools’ document. 

“We strongly request the re-insertion of the paragraphs relating to Denominational Education from the previous iteration of the guidance, which would reflect both the legal protection for schools with a Religious Character, and the previously supportive position of Scottish Government for Catholic schools.”

The paragraphs that are no longer reflected in the updated draft guidance are as follows:

38. In Scotland, provision is made for some publicly funded schools that are denominational in character. The majority of these schools are Roman Catholic and they are an integral part of the public education system. Denominational schools play an important part in Scottish education. The Scottish Government values this provision and is committed to maintaining it. 

39. The Scottish Government supports the right of the Roman Catholic Church to give witness to its faith, and to uphold the traditions of Catholic education. We value the contribution made by Catholic schools, and have no intention of changing the current position where faith aspects of the curriculum in Catholic schools are determined by the Scottish Catholic Education Service acting on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. These faith aspects relate to religious education and religious observance. 

40. In February 2011, the Scottish Government issued advice to local authorities and head teachers reiterating that the experiences and outcome for Religious Education in Roman Catholic schools should be delivered in conjunction with guidance provided by the Scottish Catholic Education Service. We have no plans to change this advice. 

41. National guidance on the curriculum is always developed on the basis of wide consultation. It is recognised that religious authorities with a role in denominational education provide guidance on RSHP education for their denominational schools and that right will continue as at present. This national guidance should be seen to be complementary to the guidance provided by the religious authority while at the same time serving as a useful basis for everyone.

The removal of these “protections” in the draft guidance creates an understandable worry among Catholics that their schools will be required to provide and promote a secularised approach to relationship and sexuality education.  

The draft new guidelines omit any reference to the existence of denominational schools, instead replacing these protections with a section on “faith and beliefs” which, rather than protecting the schools ethos, essentially places the different diverse faiths and beliefs of learners ahead of the denominational ethos of the schools:

3.8. Educational practitioners should ensure learning and teaching is planned and delivered sensitively, being respectful of the various belief and faith backgrounds present in their learning community. Knowledge and understanding about the traditions, beliefs and practices of different religions, faiths and belief groups supports children and young people to develop respect and understanding. To facilitate this, themes can be devised so individuals can interact and learn alongside those who may have different beliefs and values to them, leading potentially to increased understanding. 

3.9. Schools have a key role to play in providing an educational experience that is inclusive for all, regardless of the beliefs and values they hold. With inclusive RSHP education, children and young people, where religion and/or belief plays a role in their identities, should be able to feel included and accepted within their school and community. When children and young people can see themselves represented in what they learn, it helps them feel like they belong and that their identity is valued. This helps them to better engage with education. It also supports all children and young people to understand equalities and rights, and to recognise the impact of prejudice and stereotypes. 

This places denominational schools, where parents may have chosen on the basis of the particular ethos, in a position where they are required to abandon this ethos and become, de facto, state schools.

Additional concerns have been raised regarding the introduction of the “whole of school” approach to RSHP, which requires the ideas around LGBT inclusion be incorporated across the school curriculum, utilising academic learning to inculcate a particular ethos that is at odds with the ethos of the schools’ governing bodies.

Specifically, the guidance states:

“To enable LGBT Inclusive Education across the curriculum, there should be an emphasis on the importance of inter-disciplinary learning including but not exclusively through Expressive Arts, Languages, Literacy, Health and Well Being, Numeracy, Religious and Moral Education, Sciences and Social Studies.”

The Guidelines admit explicitly that the recommendations from the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group’s report to the Scottish Ministers have been included in the draft guidance, focusing on contested areas such as terminologies (including gender identity), histories of the social rights movement, as well as the “quality of people, families and relationships”. Catholic teaching related to the primacy of the family unit, of marriage being between a man and woman, as well as the social reality that children fare better, on average, in these stable units, will struggle to find its space in such an ideologically confined space.

Further concerns exist in relation to the expectations of RSHP education, where the guidelines insert the objectives – and pressure – on teachers and learners, to contribute to reducing gender-based violence and domestic abuse while also encouraging children to reflect on the gender stereotypes that they hold as well as their unconscious biases. The former creates an unrealistic expectation on the role of schools and educators while that latter incorporates faddish ideas that are neither bounded by evidence and increasingly questioned in terms of effectiveness in addressing any practical or structural issues.

The preponderant focus on issues such as gender, gender identity, LGBT, variations in sex characteristics across the guidance, occupying half the content of the guidance, with the absence of anything that reflects a Catholic approach to relationships, sexuality and nothing about parenthood, validates the concerns that are being raised by Catholic schools and parents.

While the Scottish government claims that it has consulted with over 30 groups, including the Scottish Catholic Education Service and representatives of other major faith groups, the Herald Scotland reports that the Church described Government claims that the Scottish Catholic Education Service had been consulted as “disingenuous”. It reports a Church source stating: “A proper consultation is where the views of a participant or stakeholder are taken on board. Ours were wilfully ignored. It is striking that the term Catholic School is not used within this document and the phrase ‘denominational schools’ only once.”

The above article is from the The Catholic Herald.

How to respond

You can read the revised document here.

To respond online

To respond by post

Posted responses must reach Scottish Government by 23 November (so post by Monday 20 November).

WATCH: Archbishop's message for Catholic Education Week

It's Catholic Education Week 2021! Here is Archbishop Cushley's message to teachers, pupils and all involved in our Catholic schools.

Resources and ideas for school, parish and home can be found at

GALLERY: Happy Christmas to our Catholic schools!

Happy Christmas to the Catholic school community in our Archdiocese from our Education Team. Thanks for keeping Christ in Christmas!

Silent Night performed by Anna and Maddy from the Schola Cantorum at St Mary's Cathedral. Accompanied by Michael Ferguson. CD album With Angels & Archangels is available to buy here.

Education team revamp to benefit schools

The Very Reverend Nick Welsh VE has been appointed the Vicar Episcopal for Catholic Education for the Archdiocese.

The post replaces his former role as Head of Schools and he will continue working closely with Eileen Rafferty (main pic, left), Religious Education Adviser to Primary Schools. They are joined by Margaret Barton (main pic, right), who takes up the part-time post of Religious Education Advisor to High Schools.

Fr Welsh said: “Schools are a big part of what we’re doing in the diocese, so it makes sense to have a Vicar Episcopal for Education to be part of discussions on the Archbishop’s Council.

“That means I’ll get a good idea of what’s going on across the diocese, along with the other VEs, and the vision Archbishop Cushley has for our schools.”

The team are currently busy putting together new sacramental material for primary teachers.

Catholic schools

Fr Nick continued: “One of the unique parts of a Catholic school is that we prepare our kids for the reception of the sacraments.

“But a Catholic school is much more than that; the encounter with Jesus Christ and the mission to educate our children according to our beliefs, values and faith is the most important thing. One of the challenges is making that clearly known to local authorities.”

Fr Nick is currently parish priest at Our Lady & St Andrew in Galashiels, also serving Our Lady & St Joseph's in Selkirk and St Cuthbert's in Melrose. He has two primary schools in his parish, St Joseph’s in Selkirk and St Margaret’s in Galshiels.

He said: “I genuinely love going into the schools. There’s a great energy that comes from being around kids who, because of the environment we create in our schools, are confident and feel safe. That makes them open to the message of the gospel."

Margaret Barton started her role today (Monday) at the Gillis Centre in Edinburgh. She is a former principal teacher of RE at St Aidan's HS in Wishaw, where she worked for 20 years.

VIDEO: Catholic schools backed by MSPs

Politicians across Scotland have backed Catholic schools in a powerful show of cross-party support at Holyrood.

They discussed the 'positive contribution' of Catholic education to Scotland since the foundation of the 1918 Education act, following a motion made by Elaine Smith MSP.

They also unanimously dispelled the myth that Catholic schools in Scotland are a cause off sectarianism.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “It is vital that our support for Catholic education is expressed without equivocation and I do so positively and enthusiastically in parliament this evening.

"The Scottish Government remains an unequivocal supporter of Catholic education — we value the contribution Catholic schools and faith schools make and we are absolutely determined to ensure that this tradition is maintained in Scotland as a vital element of the Scottish education system.”

Other MSPs who spoke included SNP MSPs Richard Lyle, Annabelle Ewing, Fulton MacGregor, John Mason and Clare Adamson, Labour MSPs Jackie Bailie and Iain Gray, and Conservative MSP Liz Smith.

Archbishop Cushley watched the event from the public gallery and was joined by pupils from St Augustine’s High School, St Thomas of Aquin’s High School and Holyrood High School.

Full coverage of the event by the Scottish Catholic Observer can be read here.




Inspirational leader Lisamaria collects national award

Pupils in Livingston will be glued to their screens this Saturday to watch their ‘inspirational’ leader collect a national award.

Lisamaria Purdie was named Headteacher of the Year at a Primary School at the 2019 Pearson Training Awards. She attended a glamorous ceremony in London hosted by BBC presenters Tina Daheley and Sean Fletcher.

It will be broadcast on BBC2 this weekend in a programme called Britain’s Classroom Heroes.

It’s the second big award for Lisamaria. In June she was named Headteacher of the Year at the Scottish Education Awards 2019 in Glasgow for her outstanding work at St Ninian's Primary School.

She previously described how the Catholic faith is central to her role and the school's ethos.

Judges said: "Lisamaria’s passion for education embodies all that is important in the 21st century. She is an innovative and motivational leader who is forward thinking and inspirational.

“Lisamaria has engaging and effective communication skills which allow her to reach out and touch everyone both in school and in the wider community.

“She is a distributive leader who recognises her staff’s strengths and creates an open-door policy ensuring effective communication for all.”

They also highlighted her work in ensuring St Ninian’s is central to the local community, including transporting shopping to stuck families during winter snows and organising a ‘parent boot camp’ to get families into shape.

The Pearson Teaching Awards celebrate the best teaching across the UK, and gold winners are nominated for awards by pupils, parents and colleagues.

Eleven UK teachers were honoured as winners for their inspirational work in education.

Britain’s Classroom Heroes is on BBC2 this Saturday at 5:30pm.