New Reports from the Pastoral Research Centre

The Pastoral Research Centre (PRC), the Roman Catholic socio-religious research institute established following the demise of the Newman Demographic Survey (NDS) in 1964, has launched two new series of reports on Catholic schools in England and Wales. They are all edited by Anthony E.C.W. Spencer and issued under the PRC imprint of Russell-Spencer Ltd.

One series publishes for the first time the detailed findings of the inaugural census of Catholic schools carried out by Ronald Barley and Audrey Donnithorne for the NDS in 1955. The three reports currently available comprise a general introduction to the series and the returns for the Dioceses of Brentwood and Menevia. In the pipeline are reports for the Dioceses of Clifton, Nottingham, and Plymouth.

The other series is a reconstruction of the 2009 census of Catholic schools, originally undertaken by the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW). However, because the CESEW has published only a summary account of this census – see BRIN’s coverage at – and has declined Spencer’s requests for access to detailed data, he has needed to reconstruct the census from eleven different sources, including Freedom of Information Act requests to local education authorities.

Four reports have been issued for 2009 thus far: a general introduction and the results for the Dioceses of Brentwood, Menevia, and Wrexham. Next in line for publication are reports for the Archdiocese of Cardiff and the Dioceses of Clifton, Hexham and Newcastle, and Lancaster. The introductory report contains twelve invaluable tables of national Catholic baptismal and school statistics since 1955, with associated commentary.

In an accompanying press release, Spencer has likewise used these 1955 and 2009 censuses to begin to review the achievements of the educational policy of the Catholic Church over the last six decades, measured against its own seven longstanding strategic principles.

He finds that the Church appears to have abandoned or to have ‘turned upside down’ five of its principles, that:

  • every Catholic child should attend a Catholic school
  • Catholic children are prohibited from attending schools also open to non-Catholics
  • Catholic schools should be single sex
  • Catholic schools should be controlled by the institutional Church
  • Catholic children should be taught only by Catholic teachers

A sixth principle, that there must be a place in a Catholic school for every Catholic child, is said to have been achieved, albeit the achievement turns out to be hollow, since many non-Catholic pupils now take up places not sought out by Catholic parents. The seventh principle remains unchanged: that the Catholic Church should ‘have’ its own schools for the Catholic community.

Spencer comments: ‘Many Catholics – and many of their fellow citizens – would applaud the above developments if they were aware of them; many would regret them, and many would be indifferent. But as the institutional leaders of the Church do not accept that they are accountable to the Catholic community, and have set up neither a National Pastoral Council, nor the National Conference on Catholic Education – “a national platform for major public debate on Catholic education” – planned in 1988, or any other conflict resolution system, the Catholic community will continue to be kept uninformed, unconsulted, its views ignored.’

To obtain copies of these seven reports on the 1955 and 2009 Catholic school censuses, the press release and a list of all PRC publications in print, contact Mr Spencer at the Pastoral Research Centre, Stone House, Hele, Tanuton, Somerset, TA4 1AJ, telephone: 01823 461669, email:

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