Woldingham and CISC Conference on Catholic Education

Last week, Woldingham hosted a day conference for Heads and Governors working in Catholic Independent Schools. The day began with the assembled group watching a short video celebrating Woldingham’s 175th Anniversary and led on to a thought-provoking and enjoyable day for all who attended.

Fr Adrian Porter SJ spoke of the involvement of Religious Orders in schools and the challenges which face them. Most schools which were started by Religious are now run by lay Heads and the challenge for all of us is to share our vision of education in the service of the Gospel, helping young people to grow and develop.

Dr Anthony Towey spoke to us about the new GCSE RE syllabus and its challenges for schools and students alike as we move into a future where students are motivated to find new answers to the many issues of our time.

Mrs Alex Hutchinson gave an honest and refreshing talk on the ‘challenges facing Catholic Independent Schools today’. Following on from Fr Adrian, we were reminded by Mrs Hutchinson that identity is important as it comes from our past story. When she accepted her new role as Headmistress of Woldingham she had reflected on the words spoken to her by Sister Mary Hinde, a former Woldingham Head, that ‘there is no future without a past’. The challenge for Woldingham is to embrace the five goals of Sacred Heart Education and continue to build on a wonderful legacy which started with St Madeleine Sophie Barat who said, ‘For the sake of one child I would have founded the society’.

The day concluded with a lovely discussion on what we had heard from the speakers and a positive affirmation that we are all moving in the right direction. It is important that we continue to take time to reflect on and develop new ways of helping our schools grow in the future by building a culture of dialogue and planting the seeds of hope. As Pope Francis remarked ‘Catholic education is one of the most important challenges of the Church today’ (13 February 2014).

Fr Gerry Devlin, Chaplain