Why teach in a Catholic school?
For those who are not Catholic and have never taught in a Catholic school, the prospect of applying for a job in one can seem daunting. Likewise, for Catholics who have never taught in a Catholic school, there may be a degree of nervousness about applying for your first job in a Catholic school. Don’t worry.
According to the latest figures from the Catholic Education Service, around 35% of the staff in Catholic independent schools in England and wales are Catholic. The figure is higher in the maintained sector, but in the secondary maintained sector it is close at 40%.
In other words, around 5 or 6 teachers out of every 10 in the staffroom in our Catholic independent schools are not Catholic. Without them there would be no Catholic schools. They are there because the governors trust them to do a job in the school. Here are some answers to the most common questions which may help you in your quest to join them:
Do you have to be Catholic to teach in a Catholic school?
No, in most cases. There are certain posts in a Catholic school called ‘reserved posts’ which have to be filled by practising Catholics. These posts are the Head, Deputy Head and Head of Religious Studies. A Lay (i.e. not a priest) Chaplain should also be a practising Catholic.
What do you mean by practising Catholic?
A very full and helpful definition of practising Catholic be found in the publication Christ at the Centre, by Bishop Marcus Stock (see: Events and Training > Key Documents). It’s certainly about more than just going to Mass. There’s an expectation of being in communion with the Church and practising a living faith which is evident in charity.
If I’m not a Catholic do I have to believe everything the Church teaches?
No. Your main focus will be to teach the subject you’ve been employed to teach and any other activities stipulated in your contract. You will be expected to support the ethos and identity of the school, which will include not speaking out against aspects of Church teaching you may not personally agree with or undermining it by your conduct.
What does support the ethos mean in practice? Will I have to attend religious services?
Yes, in most cases teachers are form tutors or class teachers so will be expected to lead pupils in prayer. Resources will be provided to help you with that. You will also be expected to attend assemblies and services with your pupils if that is in the calendar.
Your pupils may be asked to lead certain aspects of a service or assembly in which cases you will be expected to co-ordinate and support that.
What if my lifestyle is not compatible with what the Church believes?
In most cases, if your lifestyle does not impinge on your life in the school and is a private matter then there should be no issues. In a boarding school environment of course that can be more of a challenge, especially if you live on site.
Can I choose teaching materials which might contradict Church teaching?
There are many places in the curriculum where choice is required. For example in English, it will be at the discretion of the teacher or the Head of Faculty to choose which novels to study. If a text is presenting or promoting activity which is clearly in breach of Church teaching (e.g. black magic) then that would not be appropriate.
It will depend of course on the age of the pupils. As pupil get older they will need to encounter a fuller range of human experience and behaviour. Some episodes from history are very dark indeed but that does not mean they should not be taught, quite the reverse.
Do Catholic schools study other religions?
Yes, very much so. It is part of the expectation of the bishops that Religious Education must include the study of other world religions. The new RE GCSE must include the study of a second religion and most bishops require that this should be Judaism. The Catholic school should be a place of openness to plurality and difference, committed to promoting dialogue. The pupils are encouraged to think critically, to ask questions and to grow in wisdom and understanding.
For more information on teaching or working in a Catholic school, including more general information about Catholicism, please refer to How to Survive Working in a Catholic School by Raymond Friel and Sister Judith Russi (Redemptorist Publications, 2013).
In the meantime please keep an eye on our vacancies section. If you have any further questions please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for confidential advice and guidance.