Renewing the Church-State Partnership for Catholic Education

Engaging with the Challenge of Academisation

by Margaret Buck (Author)
©2020 Monographs XVI, 306 Pages


In light of changes to the English national educational policy context since the Academies Act 2010, this book examines the relationship between the Catholic Church and the English State with regard to the provision of education in diocesan Catholic schools. The author proposes why, where, and how this partnership should be modified and reinforced in order that the needs of children learning and growing to maturity in Catholic schools, the mission of the church and the common good of society can be addressed. This book, which is not simply about academisation, should be of interest to bishops, diocesan officers, senior leaders and teachers in Catholic schools and academies, directors and governors of the same, as well as many others with a professional or personal interest in English Catholic education. The aim is to put Christ at the centre and children first when envisioning the preferred future for Catholic education in a post-Brexit world.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations
  • Key Terms
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Setting the Scene
  • Chapter 2 The History of the Strategic Partnership between Church and State
  • Chapter 3 Church Teaching on Education
  • Chapter 4 Four Major Contributors
  • Chapter 5 The Theological Dimension
  • Chapter 6 The Advent and Era of Academisation
  • Chapter 7 Challenging Issues in the Relationship between Church and State
  • Chapter 8 Fresh Understandings and New Requirements
  • Chapter 9 Conclusion: Towards a Preferred Future
  • Bibliography
  • Index


I was privileged to work for several years in close collaboration with Dr Margaret Buck as a colleague in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. With great effectiveness, Margaret applied the professional skills and experience she had acquired as a local authority education inspector to the development and support of Catholic education, firstly as Deputy Director of Schools and subsequently as Director, within one of the largest Catholic dioceses in England and Wales. This book is the fruit of Dr Buck’s reflection on her work in that role and others, and of her more recent academic research.

In this book, Dr Buck presents a coherent challenge to all those working in the Catholic school sector; it emanates from the fundamental question at the heart of her study: ‘In light of changes to the English national educational policy context since 2010, what should be the relationship between the Catholic Church and the English State with regard to the provision of education in diocesan Catholic schools?’

In considering the potential reframing of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the English State, the author identifies the importance of the Church having a clear and unified vision, policy and strategy for the future provision of Catholic education. Dr Buck points out the importance of the need for this vision, policy and strategy to be rooted in the ‘re-imaging internal relationships between the bishops, their diocesan services, and Catholic school leaders and governors’; a recalibration of the delicate balance between subsidiarity and solidarity that is at the heart of these ecclesial relationships in the Catholic education sector.

Dr Buck argues the need for, and the promotion of, a ‘one Church’ approach to the strategic provision of Catholic education in England in order to ‘work with unity of purpose internally, and externally engage authentically with the world’. She proposes that the Church–State partnership in the provision of schools with a religious character should be ‘renewed’ and, essentially, that the relationship in this partnership ‘needs to be critically ←vii | viii→evaluated, re-imagined, and renewed so as to be fit for purpose to serve the contemporary needs of the church and the national education service’.

Moreover, Dr Buck always has in mind the immense value and potential that the Catholic Church can play in an effective partnership with the State in the provision of education in England; a partnership which endeavours to recognise the importance of parental rights and choices in the education of their children, and thereby contribute to the cohesion of society and the common good of the nation.

Dr Buck provides a broad, contemporary and critical appraisal of the Catholic Church’s engagement and relationship with the English State in the provision of school based education. The author looks ahead though and suggests a dialogue, rooted in the Church’s theology and magisterial teaching, which can help frame a renewed and positive vision, policy and strategy for the future.

This book is a significant resource and a stimulus for debate for all those who serve the mission of the Catholic Church in education in our country.

Right Reverend Marcus Stock

Bishop of Leeds


My principal debts are owed to Professor John Sullivan, Emeritus Professor of Liverpool Hope University and Visiting Professor to Newman University, who was my lead supervisor during my doctoral studies.

I wish to acknowledge that Christopher and Clare, in different ways, have been motivational in this project, as have my grandchildren, Oscar, Elliot and Thomas.

Finally, I have to record my thanks to my husband, Steve, without whose support living out my whole professional life, including bringing this project to fulfilment, would not have been remotely possible.

Key Terms

It is very important to be clear what is meant when the word ‘church’ is used, since the term may be variously interpreted or misunderstood. The political and regulatory world of government is inclined to treat it as an umbrella term to cover various entities as if they are all one and the same body. The word ‘church’ may be used at a global, national and local level. When I am referring to all the people in the world that God gathers together in the name of Jesus Christ, I will use the word ‘Church’ with a capital ‘c’. The ‘Roman Catholic Church’ means the world-wide Catholic faithful in full communion with Rome under the authority of the pope. The term ‘Catholic Church’ is used to refer to the ecclesial entity that is the whole of the English Catholic faithful, both clergy and laity. The ‘Catholic hierarchy’ means the bishops, priests and deacons. The ‘Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales’ (CBCEW) is the formal assembly of bishops of both countries. The ‘Catholic Education Service’ functions as the agent of the CBCEW with government and other national bodies (CES, 2016a; Barber, 2017). When talking about the national Catholic Church in England, for the sake of brevity I may refer to ‘the church’, with a small ‘c’. I use the term ‘the local church’ to mean ‘the diocese’. A diocese is led by its diocesan bishop with canonical authority over the faithful and the provision of education for baptised Catholic children. ‘Diocesan trustees’ are the trustees of a diocese as a charitable organisation in law. Reference is made to the ‘diocesan schools commission’ or the ‘diocesan education service’, which functions as the agent of the bishop in all matters to do with schools. The term ‘diocesan authorities’ implies the diocesan education service (or diocesan schools commission), together with the bishop and trustees. In canon law, a diocese has authority in church matters and episcopal government similar to the role of the local authority in secular matters and local government in civil law (Vatican, 1983).

←xiii | xiv→

The state provides the framework for civil government, with legal powers and duties (with respect to education) discharged nationally, through the structures and provisions of central government, including the ministerial department with responsibility for education, and in some cases through responsibilities delegated locally to local government, that is, to local authorities. Therefore, the term ‘state’ is understood to refer to (a) the central state, that is, central government and the Department for Education (DfE), and any agents with delegated authority to act on behalf of the secretary of state for education (also known as the education secretary), and (b) local government in the form of local authorities, which have responsibility for local state-maintained educational provision, other than academies and free schools. On occasion I refer to the ‘English State’ as a specific legal entity.

This book focuses on Catholic schools and academies, owned by the trustees of Catholic dioceses in England and funded by the state, subject to the canonical authority of their diocesan bishop, and bound by diocesan trust deeds. The word ‘school’ may be used in two ways; first, when talking about a voluntary-aided school. A voluntary-aided school is a school set up and owned by a voluntary body, usually a church body, largely financed by a local authority. The governing body employs the staff and controls pupil admissions and religious education. The school’s land and buildings (apart from playing fields, which usually belong to the local authority) will normally be owned by a charitable foundation. Voluntary-aided schools referred to in this book are generally speaking Catholic schools. Second, the word ‘school’ may be used when referring to voluntary-aided schools and academies collectively as schools in the generic sense that they are places where children are educated.

An ‘academy’ is a state-funded independent school, which is funded directly from central government. Academies may be run as single academies, or more likely an academy is part of what may be referred to in some dioceses as a multi-academy company, a MAC, or a multi-academy trust, a MAT; it is worth clarifying the use of these terms. A charitable trust is set up with a trust deed as the constituting document. A charitable company limited by guarantee is governed by memorandum and articles of association. A charitable trust and a charitable company are equally charities, ←xiv | xv→but they each have a different legal status and structure. With respect to either structure, general charity law applies. Directors of a charitable company are also subject to the Companies Acts, the requirements of company law and the Charity Commission. Whether the DfE or the individual diocese or the Catholic Education Service uses the terminology ‘multi-academy company’ or ‘multi-academy trust’ or ‘multi-academy trust company’, if the legal entity that caters for academy conversion is established with articles of association it is a charitable company limited by guarantee, not a trust. Dioceses (and religious orders) already have trusts in place and their schools are assets of the said trusts. When the Birmingham diocese reached agreement with the DfE on their approach to academy conversion, the term ‘multi-academy company/MAC’ was deliberately employed in the diocesan legal documents for conversion (i.e. the diocesan model Memorandum and Articles of Association) used to set up each of the multi-academy companies to stress the company status, and to avoid confusion with diocesan trust status. All English multi-academy conversions involve the use of articles of association, therefore are legally companies.

An additional layer of management has emerged in academies. Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are being appointed to oversee MACs/MATs; they are often referred to as Catholic Senior Executive Leaders (CSELs). The rationale for the emergence of these roles is that the Board of Directors are responsible for making sure there is strong effective leadership of the academies; for simplicity, I will use the term CEO.


XVI, 306
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (January)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XVI, 306 pp

Biographical notes

Margaret Buck (Author)


Title: Renewing the Church-State Partnership for Catholic Education
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323 pages