Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Out? Not If You Want to Lead a Catholic School: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Out? Not If You Want to Lead a Catholic School: News

Article excerpt

Restrictions on teachers' private lives are 'tyrannical', critics say.

The Catholic Church has been strongly criticised for publishing guidance that suggests that school governors and senior staff who are openly gay, remarry after divorce or cohabit with partners could face demotion or the sack.

Critics have accused bishops of being "prurient and tyrannical" for placing restrictions on the private lives of teachers in state-funded schools that go "beyond the pale".

New guidance published by the Church says that key members of school staff and governors cannot perform their roles if they make "substantive life choices" that are incompatible with Catholic teaching. If heads, deputies, heads of RE and governors enter "non-chaste" relationships outside of Church-approved forms of marriage, "their ability to govern or lead and model Catholic life and faith with ecclesial integrity may cease", it adds.

The booklet, Christ at the Centre, released by the Catholic Education Service, also says that it is unacceptable for Catholic staff to marry in a non-Catholic church or registry office without special dispensation.

Its publication comes at a time when the Catholic Church is at the centre of the debate over gay marriage and follows a letter by bishops claiming that legalisation would restrict "the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools".

The guidance warns against the appointment of non-Catholics in senior roles, and says governors could be removed from their posts and senior teachers could face disciplinary proceedings if they do anything "detrimental" to the character of the school.

The Catholic Church runs more than 2,100 state schools, about 10 per cent of the national total.

The National Secular Society, which has labelled the guidance "prurient and tyrannical", this week wrote to education secretary Michael Gove calling for him to insist that the Catholic Education Service withdraw the booklet.

"The restrictions concerning the private lives of teachers employed in state schools go beyond the pale," wrote Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, adding: "Criteria relating to activity outside the academic environment detailed in this publication are unreasonable and unrealistic; particularly in publicly funded schools and academies."

Mr Porteous Wood also called for a change in the law that allows faith school teachers to be disciplined or dismissed for conduct that is incompatible with the school's religion. …

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