Monday, February 21, 2011

Cardinal Vaughan School in dispute with Westminster Archdiocese

The Cardinal Vaughan is my old school, as I mentioned before. The Governing Body wanted to have an admissions policy based on Catholic practice (indicated e.g. by whether or not the applicants have made their First Communion). The diocese wants an admissions policy based on distance. On this basis I would not have got to the Vaughan, living well to the south of the River Thames and having to travel a 45 to 60 minute journey on the London Underground each morning and evening.

I have just watched this video of the prayer vigil held on February 2nd. I was struck by the dignity and reverence of the vigil and how clearly Catholic it was. It made me proud to be an old boy of the Vaughan.

Last Sunday (yesterday) was Education Sunday in the UK. The Vaughan Parents Action Group distributed a leaflet at a number of parishes in London that traditionally send children to the Vaughan (h/t Catholic and Loving It):

Vaughan Parents’ Action Group

This Sunday Pray for Catholic Education
  • There is a lot to celebrate about Catholic Education but our schools are under threat as never before.
  • The Diocese of Westminster has forced schools such as The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School (CVMS) to drop from their admission criteria the requirement for parents to present their children for the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confession.
  • Practising Catholic families question why this requirement of Canon Law has not been insisted upon by the Diocese.
  • Westminster Diocese has refused to involve parents fully in the education of their children, by eliminating them from the Foundation Governors of CVMS, even though well qualified parents offered themselves. This is why the Westminster Diocese is being taken to court by the Vaughan's elected Parent Governors.
  • Some Catholic schools in London struggle to fill places with Catholic pupils. Instead of singling out the Vaughan's Governing Body for special treatment the Diocese should concentrate on helping schools like these to attract a higher Catholic intake.
  • After Baptism and Mass attendance the Diocese prefers to use geographical distance as a tie-breaker for admission to Catholic schools over and above commitment to and practice of the Faith or involvement in the life of the Church.
  • When this applies to schools such as CVMS it will effectively deny practising families the choice of a Catholic education for their children if they live more than a couple of miles away from a School.
Is this what you want for your children and grandchildren ?
Write to Archbishop Vincent Nichols at Archbishop’s House, Ambrosden Avenue, London, SW1P 1QJ or email:
Tell him what you want and expect him to provide for Catholic education for your family
Do this before it is too late to make a difference
Pray for Catholic Education
Join our campaign at:

Disputes between Pastors and faithful are painful for all concerned. I am not actively taking part in any campaign but I guess you know where my sympathies are. So just go and check it out and decide for yourself. And pray for the gift of wisdom for all concerned.

PS: More at Fr Ray Blake's Blog.


  1. I was one of the parents leafletting at a parish church on Sunday, and I was heartened by the support from the Parish Priest and many paretns who are surprised and dismayed at the treatment of Cardinal Vaughan. Please give generously to the fund to support the legal action that the Parent Governors are taking, it is to ensure that at ALL Catholic schools parents can have proper representation on the Governing Body. This is a fight that touches all schools. For more information please go to

  2. Thank you so much for this. There is a mistake in the email address for the Archbishop. It should be
    The Vaughan Parents Action Group is supporting the parent governors' legal challenge by raising funds. If any of your readers in the USA would be so generous as to help our fight please contact us, for further details.
    Sarah Johnson

  3. I am the parent of two former pupils at the Vaughan. Under the new rules we wouldn't have got in either. I asked one of my son's friends why she was making a three hour round trip to attend the Vaughan sixth form? She said that the 'perfectly good Catholic girls comp' on her doorstep was satisfied with C grades. She wanted to be a doctor and knew she was capable of getting the necessary A grades with the right teaching. While both sides in this dispute claim the moral high ground, I don't see enough mention of the bitterness and envy directed at the Vaughan from the CES and certain other schools. Perhaps the Archbishop should ask himself why working class catholic children shouldn't aim high? Why so many Catholic schools in his diocese apparently cannot teach Maths and Sciences to a high standard? And remind us, isn't envy a sin?

  4. I am the parent of two former pupils of the Vaughan. Under the new rules we wouldn't have been accepted either. I asked one of my son's friends why she wanted to make a three hour round trip every day, when there was a 'perfectly good Catholic girls' comp on her doorstep? She explained that her school was satisfied when her work got Cs and didn't explain how she could improve. She wanted to be a doctor and with the right teaching, knew that she could achieve As. So she went to the Vaughan. At least she had the oppportunity then. She wouldn't now.

    Both sides in this dispute claim the Catholic high ground, but I don't see sufficient mention of the bitterness and envy
    directed at the Vaughan from the CES and certain other schools in the diocese. Perhaps the Archbishop could ask himself why other schools in his diocese are unable or unwilling
    to enable working class Catholic pupils to aim

  5. I could have mentioned also that I came from a working class Irish family and doubt very much that I would be the man I am now were it not for the CVS. The teachers instilled in us a sense of our dignity and worth as future citizens and Catholics.

  6. I agree with the earlier comment that the Vaughan tries harder than most other Catholic schools. My son is dislexic and dispraxic and hated his disability. He wasn't an easy teenager, but somehow the Vaughan found the best in him. He went on to a good university and graduated last year. I firmly believe this would't have happened if he went to the nearest Catholic boys' school. The plain fact is that many Catholic schools just jog along, and snipe at the Vaughan whenever they get the chance. Envy indeed! What does Paul Barber think he is doing?

  7. Vaughan Parent26 March, 2011 02:13

    The appeal at the High Court has now been heard and judgment is awaited. No matter what the outcome, the VPAG will continue to ask for parents of children currently at the school to be appointed as Foundation Governors and for Paul Barber, The Director of Education at the Diocese of Westminster, to be removed from the Governing Body because of a clear conflict of interest. There will be another vigil of prayer and music at the school on the evening of the April 6th to pray for for Vaughan and the future of all Catholic schools. Please join us. See our new website for more info and for latest news including the ever growing list of patrons.

  8. Well I would not send my child to Cardinal Vaughan because BLAIRS SON NOW GOES THERE. Such uncatholic un christian money grabbing parents ,take a look at what Blair has done to this country ie. catholic adoption service, abortion ect ect. Now Cardinal vaughan are proud to have Cherie and Tony on board its disgusting..

  9. I thought they sent their kids to the Oratory. agree with your sentiments about Mr & Mrs B.

  10. The fact that you had to travel to the School surely means that at least one local child was unable to gain a place. Hope this is printed as a counter view!

    1. I willingly publish your unreasonable comment. Such comments as yours should not be made behind the cloak of anonymity.

      I have no idea whether or not I was competing with a local child for a place. But let me explain: I was rejected by my local Catholic secondary modern in South London. My Catholic primary school head teacher suggested the Vaughan as a second choice. My parish priest told my mother that I would never get into the Vaughan - we were lowly Irish - especially as a second choice applicant. The Head Teacher however had confidence in me.

      Whereas I found my interview - yes, we had them then - at the secondary modern intimidating, I found Fr Kenefeck, then Head Teacher at the Vaughan, a most pastoral and considerate interviewer. I remember it distinctly. I was alone with him and felt totally confident, albeit with the high degree of respect for him as a priest that my parents had instilled in me.

      Father tested my ability on Maths and other topics in a way that was challenging but not intimidating. Then my mother and father - humble Irish - were interviewed separately as I waited outside the Head's office. Father was equally kind to them and confided to them that in all probability I would be offered a place.

      And the rest is history.

      I hope I did not deprive anyone of a place. And your suggestion that I did, made behind the cloak of anonymity, is unwarranted. I hope I deserved that place. And I wonder if I would be a priest now had things turned out differently.

  11. I do not see how my observation is unreasonable. As you say you HOPE you did not deprive anyone of a place but you can never know. If I choose to reply to you 'under the cloak of anonymity' as you say that is my right and no moral implication should be attached to it. The fact that you are a priest now has no relevance!

    1. To me it does! And what about Providence? Is there any possibility that this might have all been in accordance with God's Providential Plan?

      You can reply anonymously but I don't need to publish. Many bloggers refuse to publish anonymous comments. I request people to avoid anonymity.

  12. You have been very courteous in publishing my responses to items on your blog. I hope this reply will continue in that spirit. How you managed to become a pupil at Cardinal Vaughan School has nothing to do with me and I am glad that the experience was such a positive one for you. Your mention of a local secondary modern school leads me to speculate that, at the time of your admission, Cardinal Vaughan School may have been a grammar school and some other pupils may have needed to pass the 11+ examination. Perhaps you did yourself! My point was to ask you to consider that other local pupils from good traditional Catholic families might not gain entry to the school because of the wide catchment area of such a sought after establishment. All selection causes problems to the pupils excluded. As I understand it the decision of the local archdiocese was to insist on nearness to the school as an important criterion. I read also that the archdiocese was concerned that the school appeared to be insisting on a higher standard of Catholic practice than the diocese itself demanded. I would have thought also that, in these circumstances, you had a duty of obedience to the local bishop. You are right in that you are doing me a great service in publishing anonymous responses and, as you say, you are under no obligation to publish them. My hope is to point out that there are other concerns in this difficult area. Divine Providence? I am afraid that is of less concern to me than it is to you.


Please avoid being 'anonymous' if at all possible.


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