Communication from the Director of Education

Witness of the Word School Bulletin

20th May 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Today has been designated “Thank a Teacher Day” and behalf of all the Education Service may I extend to you our deep appreciation and sincere thanks for all you do. The same thanks and appreciation is also given to all your support staff and to every adult who enhances and supports the learning and faith development of those we serve. Every school leader today is focused on best to welcome back to our open schools more pupils safely and securely. We are conscious this is not easy. Know that you have our full support in taking the right steps to ensure this is achieved. Included with today’s bulletin is advice and guidance we hope will help you and your governing body. We have arranged to have our next Zoom Headteachers Forum on Thursday 4th June at 2pm to discuss how you are coping and what support you may require.

Thank you for all you are doing and continue to do.

Our Bulletin and Resources

Every week new materials are located on our website. Please find all our Covid-19 lockdown resources here

The Beatitude Resources

Each fortnight, we are concentrating on a beatitude which links to the liturgical year. In preparation for Laudato Si week, our theme for the last fortnight has been ‘Blessed are the Gentle’. This week, in line with Pope Francis’ call to people of all nations to pray on 14th May, it is ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’. See resources

  • ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ PowerPoint for Primary
  • ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ PowerPoint for Secondary

The Education Service welcomes you and your school community to join us every Friday at 10.30am to recite a decade of the Rosary. Please find attached the link for this week’s Rosary upload to our You Tube channel.

Guidance on the return of more pupils to school – June 1st in conjunction with the CES.

Health & Safety Requirements

The Department for Education has been clear that the 1 June re-opening date is aspirational. The guidance issued by the Department is non-statutory and when considering re-opening, governing bodies and the boards of academy trust companies must be cognisant of their legal responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of their staff and pupils. This duty is to eliminate risk where possible. However, where it is not possible to eliminate a particular risk, the duty is to take such action as is reasonably practicable to mitigate that risk.

It is not going to be possible for any governing body or board to state that there is no risk involved in re-opening, but what governing bodies and boards must do is ensure that a thorough risk assessment is conducted by school leaders in order to determine what the risks might be and how they might reasonably be mitigated.

It is for governing bodies and boards to interrogate those risk assessments and to provide support to school leaders in making decisions about whether or not, and in what format, schools might be re-opened. The scientific advice states, “settings are best placed to understand the risks in their individual circumstances, so we are asking every setting to carry out a risk assessment before opening. The assessment should directly address the risks associated with coronavirus, so that sensible measures can be put in place to control those risks for children and staff”. It will not be possible to have a one-size-fits-all approach to re-opening and each school will face different challenges.

The risks identified and the ways of mitigating those risks will differ from school to school and area to area and it is important that all governing bodies and boards take appropriate decisions based on what is reasonably practicable in their own circumstances. At the current time, schools are not being legally compelled to re-open. This could happen at some point in the future, but at the moment the decision about whether or not to re-open, and which pupils to re-open to, is a decision for each governing body or board.

Content of risk assessments

We would suggest that when considering re-opening schools should be encouraged to start from the position that they intend to open for the year groups identified in the guidance. Schools should then work through the risks from that starting position. If at the end of that process governing bodies, boards and school leaders do not think that their schools can be safely opened, or if they feel that they can only re-open provided that certain reasonable precautions are put in place (for example by opening for some of the identified year groups but not others), then they are able to take that decision and should be supported in doing so.

Some key questions that schools might ask during the risk assessment process are:

  1. Who might be at risk? Will some individuals be exposed to more risk than others?
  2. Will any planned school activity increase the risks to staff and pupils?
  3. Can the school decide not to undertake a certain activity as a way of eliminating a specific risk?
  4. If it isn’t possible to eliminate the risk by not undertaking the activity, are there any reasonably practicable steps that could be taken in order to mitigate that risk?

Schools should record the answers to these questions as part of any risk assessment. Schools should communicate with staff, parents and, if appropriate, pupils about how risks will be mitigated and what part they can play in ensuring that the school environment is as safe as possible. It is important for schools to make sure that everybody is taken on the journey and that staff, pupils and parents know what part they can play in keeping the school community as safe as possible.

Schools may need to redraft or amend certain policies (for example the health & safety policy and/or the behaviour policy), training may need to be provided on the implementation of the new policies, and there will then need to be an ongoing process of monitoring, supervision and review. It may not be possible to get everything right on day one. School leaders will need to reflect on the measures that they put in place and adapt them as necessary. Feedback from staff, parents and pupils may help with this process. The key will be to make sure that all decisions are fully documented and include an explanation of how and why particular decisions were reached.

Other sources of guidance

In addition to the guidance linked above, you might want to suggest that school leaders, governing bodies and boards also consider the following:

  1. The guidance from Public Health England
  2. Any guidance being issued by local authorities
  3. Decisions being taken by neighbouring schools
  4. Any advice from liability insurers who may be able to provide schools with a risk assessment template

We would also suggest looking at the advice provided by the Health & Safety Executive on their website:

We are also aware that Ellis Whittham is providing free webinars, template documents and advice through its Coronavirus Hub.

Various law firms are also providing a wealth of free to access advice for schools and academies on their websites:

Advice provided through any of the above sources will be generic but may provide some useful starting points. Governing bodies and boards should be encouraged to take specific advice if there are particular issues that they are unsure about.

The guidance issued by the Department for Education which you can find by following these links:

The links above also include a link to the Government’s planning guide for primary schools.

You may also wish to look at the overview of the scientific advice, which confirms that what schools are being asked to do at the moment is to plan for re-opening on 1 June. A final decision regarding whether or not schools should actually open will be taken on 28 May.

Laudato Si’ Week – 16th to 24th May  

In view of the 5th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Laudato si', Pope Francis recorded a video message. In it, he addresses Catholic communities around the world. “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us, to children who are growing up?" Pope Francis asks in the video message. “Motivated by this question”, he says, “I would like to invite you to participate in Laudato Si' Week from 16-24 May 2020. It is a global campaign on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the encyclical letter Laudato si': On the care of our common home.”

The Pope also renews his urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis: “The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor cannot continue”, he says. “Let's take care of creation, a gift of our good Creator God. Let's celebrate Laudato Si' Week together.”

Getting involved

Laudato Si’ Week is sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and is meant to encourage Catholic communities to take bolder actions for creation during the week-long initiative. For all of you interested in join Pope Francis and  want to take the next step in your Laudato si’ journey, you can find suggestions available on the Laudato si’ Week website.

As part of the week communities are being invited to click on the useful toolkit to plan and implement their actions and to use the template promotional materials to share the word about activities with their members.

Support for Mental Health

Included with this bulletin is the following:

This week is mental health awareness week and the theme for 2020 is KINDNESS.

Explore the resources below to support yours schools and families during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond:

  • Seven Days of Kindness for Mentally Healthy Schools, to support teachers and parents during Mental Health Awareness WeekClick Here
  • What are the benefits of being kind? – Explore the Mental Health Foundationresource to see how being kind is good for your mental health and of others. Click Here
  • Check out the resources atCORAM for teacher, parent and Carers for Being Kind during Mental Health Awareness Week Click Here
  • Advice and tips on young people being kind to themselves at Young MindsClick Here

Keep safe. Keep well and keep the faith.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

13th May 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. If the government would like a lesson on how to communicate a clear unambiguous message then look no further. But for us it is not just a message. It is a call to be witnesses to the teachings of Christ. We are very conscious that your resilience right now is under strain. Therefore a key focus of our bulletin this week is resilience. We hope you find the resources useful. On Monday evening we learned the detail of the DfE’s proposals to return more pupils back to school. We all want students to return to school, but it has to be done properly and the clarity and security we need for a phased return needs more time and more discussion. At the Diocesan Headteachers Forum on Tuesday recommendations were made that have been passed on already to the DfE for consideration. We recognise the considerable strain and concern the announcement has produced and together we will find a way through all of this. Thank you for all you are doing and continue to do.

Our Bulletin and Resources

Every week new materials are located on our website. Please find all our Covid-19 lockdown resources here

The Beatitude Resources

Each fortnight, we are concentrating on a beatitude which links to the liturgical year. In preparation for Laudato Si week, our theme for the last fortnight has been ‘Blessed are the Gentle’. This week, in line with Pope Francis’ call to people of all nations to pray on 14th May, it is ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’. See resources

  • ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ PowerPoint for Primary
  • ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ PowerPoint for Secondary

The Education Service welcomes you and your school community to join us every Friday at 10.30am to recite a decade of the Rosary. Please find attached the link for this week’s Rosary upload to our You Tube channel.

Our Witness to Faith

In trying to discern spiritually what we having to endure at the moment it can feel overwhelming at times. Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ, Director of the Religious Life Institute at the Margaret Beaufort Institute in Cambridge, has powerfully summed it up very well. She said, “All intellectual attempts to reconcile God and suffering flounder when we deal with events like the Covid-19 pandemic. No rational argument can provide a satisfactory answer to the question of why it has come upon us. The insights of scripture point to God as unknowable but also at work in us through the power of the Spirit, giving the power for our inner self to grow strong. Christ continues to be crucified in and by the world. If there is an approach, rather than an answer, to the problem of the plague, Pope Francis tells us that it is found through conversion based on reconnection with our real surroundings, coherence in our beliefs and genuine love of one another. St Ignatius’s Contemplation for Attaining Love, he points out, is based on remembering. Suffering can become a route to union when we re-member, reconnecting and reuniting ourselves in love with Jesus, the crucified and Risen Saviour, and with our crucified brothers and sisters.”

It falls on all of us to ask how the extreme situation that we are living through can change us, individually and collectively, says Mauricio López Oropeza, Executive Secretary of REPAM Through this pandemic we are invited to a conversion in which we learn to embrace our fragility, interconnection and mystery, ‘just as in these Easter days the meaning of Jesus’s death and passion is a passage to the promised new life of the resurrection. Writing recently in Thinking Faith he stated the following:

  1. Awareness of our own fragility and finiteness as a starting point, so that we create and recreate the new from our limited being. Many cultures and traditions can show us how to turn our backs on societies centered on consumption and unlimited accumulation, on market economies that swallow up human beings, and on a vision of an unlimited planet that we must destroy. We must end the ‘throw-away culture’ in order to weave a culture of sobriety and solidarity, which will arise from the awareness of our own fragility.
  2. Awareness of our undeniable interconnection. Never before has society realised that we are absolutely intertwined. A tiny virus has shaken us from the illusion that each one of us is enough for him- or herself, or that I can remain isolated without taking responsibility for the consequences of my acts (or omissions) with respect to the lives of others. Nature has always cried at us, trying to communicate this interrelationship and the fragile balance in ecosystems. The potential new post-Covid-19 society will have to be sustained by existential ties that allow us to rethink all relationships, institutions and structures, otherwise we will again be at the mercy of the next pandemic, even more fragile in our capacity for resilience.
  3. Awareness of mystery as the energy that sustains everything. No one can save him- or herself, and in the darkness of these days the most essential search of many is for a profound encounter. Beyond the particular religions, embracing all of what is positive and valuable in each one of them, we are called to create new conditions for a planetary spirituality rooted in communion, co-responsibility, otherness and the capacity of contemplation of God´s presence in all.

Laudato Si’ Week – 16th to 24th May  

Laudato Si’ Week honours the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home. The theme of the week is “everything is connected.” This week launches a year-long journey of transformation, as we grow through the crisis of the current moment by praying, reflecting, and preparing together for a better world to come tomorrow.

Following Pope Francis’ invitation to join Laudato Si’ Week, Catholics everywhere will reflect and prepare for action 16-24 May.  We’ll put our preparation into action during the Season of Creation this September, when Pope Francis has invited Catholics to pray and act for our common home. See

For other support on Laudato Si, including an inspirational article written by the Good Shepherd Primary School in Hammersmith, see our Teaching and Learning Week 8 Resources:

Support for Mental Health – Building Resilience 

Included with this bulletin is the following:

Young Minds is a charity aimed at supporting the mental health of young people within the UK.  Its mission is to make sure all young people get the best possible mental health support and have the resilience to overcome life’s challenges.

Building Pupil Resilience in Schools Click Here (Young Minds approach to building pupil resilience within school.)

The Resilient Classroom - Click Here  (A Resource Pack for Tutor Groups and Pastoral School Staff)

What is academic resilience?  Click Here (A factsheet on academic resilience)

Resilience Framework - Click Here (A framework summarising evidence-based practices that promote resilience. It was developed by Prof. Angie Hart and Dr. Derek Blincow, with help from Helen Thomas and a group of parents and practitioners.)

Which pupils are we talking about? Click Here (A resource to support schools to have a greater positive impact for the most disadvantaged pupils.)

Introducing Academic Resilience PowerPoint Click Here  (A presentation introducing Academic Resilience, why it matters and some things schools can try to ensure so that students achieve good educational outcomes despite adversity.)

Resilience Audit Process Tool Click Here (This tool  demonstrates how to use an audit approach to develop  within a school. The Audit tool brings together ideas about what could be improved or introduced within a school to promote academic resilience.)

Pyramid of Need Click Here (A tool to help identify levels of risk and needs of children and young people by using pupil data.)

Fostering Academic Resilience: A brief review of evidence. Click Here (A paper by Professor Angie Hart and Ms Steph Green, University of Brighton and Boingboing Social Enterprise reviewing the evidence and impact of focusing on a whole school resilience approach.)

Academic Resilience for children and young people with learning difficulties Click Here (These slides are developed to be used with children and young people with learning difficulties to help build their resilience.)

Resilience in children, the family and the community Click Here (A resource listing the protective factors for children in themselves, their family and the community.)

Ideas for Resilience Assembly stories Click Here (A document with suggestions for some stories that can be used in school assemblies to promote resilience.)

School Resilience Survey Guide Click Here (This survey guide will help you gather ideas from pupils, parents, staff and others in the school community and put plans in place to boost Academic Resilience.)

Senior Leadership Team Audit Tool Click Here ( A tool for Senior Leadership Teams to carry out an audit of their school and find ways to improve resilience throughout the whole school.)

School Staff Resilience Survey Guide Click Here (A survey guide to  help Senior Leadership Teams to gather information about how their staff are developing their own resilience.)

Staff Audit Tool Click Here (A tool for all school staff to carry out an audit of their school and find ways to improve resilience throughout the whole school.)

How do I improve results through academic resilience? Click Here (A resource showing how you can improve results through Academic Resilience.)

There are more resources in the Bulletin along with important updates on VASCA allocations to schools.

In the weeks ahead we will be listening carefully to your concerns and acting on your behalf to ensure the safety and well-being of our community is paramount. Thank you for all you are doing for the pupils we serve.

Keep safe. Keep well and keep the faith.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

6th May 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Together we have reached Week 7 of lockdown and our schools continue to provide inspirational and innovative ways to promote teaching and learning through our witness to faith. You continue to inspire and encourage all those in your community to work closer together for the Common Good whilst physically being apart from so many. We all await the news of how the phased return to school will be managed. We will work with you and for you to ensure that decisions to return are led by science and not political expediency. In time of uncertainty we seek clarity and reassurance that our communities will continue to be safe. Thank you for all you are doing and continue to do.

Our Bulletin and Resources

Every week new materials are located on our website. Please find all our Covid-19 lockdown resources here

The Beatitude Resources

The Education Service welcomes you and your school community to join us every Friday at 10.30am to recite a decade of the Rosary. Please find attached the link for this week’s Rosary upload to our You Tube channel. Even on VE Day we welcome you to attend. Especially if you are at home.

Our Witness to Faith

The week started with Good Shepherd Sunday and Cardinal Nichols in his sermon said, “the shepherd who never forsakes his flock in time of danger but stays with them even unto death. These are images that readily move us to be closer to Jesus in a sense of our need and our gratitude for his love and care” He spoke movingly that “Deep within the heart of every person is a reservoir of love and compassion. We are made for love, for generosity, for kindness. Jesus is the gateway to that kindness. It is he who encourages and enables this kindness to flow freely, in and out. Then, with him, we receive graciously, give generously, forgive compassionately, care especially for those who are lost.”

Celia Deane-Drummond is Director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, Campion Hall, University of Oxford. Writing for Thinking Faith she explains how gratitude for real relationships are so important right now.   She said, “Pope Francis argues in Laudato si’ that technology is a poor substitute for human relationships. He welcomes technology that is at the service of the common good, but not when it replaces social bonds. We are now finding the deep truth in what he says. Doing everything through FaceTime or other virtual tools is dissatisfying and feels odd to most people. We are now in a strange land, in spite of familiarity, where we cannot even properly weep and mourn with others. Even papal Masses and eucharistic communion, the liturgical highlight of the Christian year in the Triduum, and the material incarnate source of Christian life, are virtual. What are the spiritual lessons in this dark night, that the early mystics knew so well? The shadow of the empty tomb lingers.”

In a fascinating and thought provoking article she goes on to say, “Covid-19 is teaching the human race important lessons that it first learnt in the crucible of its early emergence in deep time. Our lives are entangled with each other and with other species and this is the source of both our unique strength but also our vulnerability. We will best honour those who have suffered and died by learning to take our interconnectedness with God, each other, and other creatures much more seriously. Further, even the deepest and darkest suffering is not beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace, thus providing an occasion for change and renewal.”

May the Month for Mary 

The month of May is a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family.  The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, the Holy Father seeks to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May.  This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities.  The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

Pope Francis has provided two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that he himself  will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. Both are included in this week’s bulletin.

Support for Mental Health

Included with this bulletin is the following:

Mentally Healthy Schools – 

Emotion Wheel - (The emotion wheel can be used with children of all ages who are struggling to express their current feelings.)

Emotional  Check-in - (A written resource supports children and young people to not only express their feelings but identify why they are feeling a particular way.)

Anxiety Thermometer (Using a feelings thermometer is a great tool to help children recognise what feelings they might be experiencing in any given moment.)

Sentence Starters  (Sentence starters can be useful prompts for children who are struggling to order their thinking or express the way they feel.)

Keep safe. Keep well and keep the faith.

Thank you for all you are doing for the pupils we serve.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

29th April 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Firstly, thank you for all the communication you have been returning to the Education Service in regard to the help you seek from us in the weeks ahead. Two key issues have arisen. One is how will the return to schools be managed? Second is how can we support students and staff with coping with bereavement? We will endeavour to help you with both. We are working closely with the CES and the DfE to ascertain strategy and clarity in the days and weeks ahead. Hopefully some of the details that follow will be of interest.

As the materials are too big to send they are now located on our website. Please find all our Covid-19 lockdown resources on our website

If you can please join us this Friday and every Friday at 10.30am to recite a decade of the Rosary. In order to ensure this goes smoothly please use the attached PowerPoint for you to use at home or at school. The link to this Friday’s YouTube Video is:

In Pope Francis’ inaugural homily as Pope on 19th March 2013 he said the following which has so much resonance for us at this time:

“Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, ‘hoping against hope, believed’ (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.”

Reopening of Schools

In this week’s TES there are some important comments to be aware of from Prof Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, in relation to schools opening in the foreseeable future.

Support for Mental Health – in particular Bereavement:

Included with this bulletin is the following:

Secondary School Students

Child Bereavement UK - Click Here (Support and information for supporting a bereaved student)

Young Minds - Click Here (Information and advice for young people dealing with grief and loss)

Supporting School Staff for children affected by grief and loss

Catholic Children’s Society - Click Here (Information on the Rainbows Bereavement Programme)

Rainbows Bereavement Click Here (National Rainbows Bereavement Charity)

Child Bereavement UKClick Here (Primary)  Click Here (Secondary) (Information for families and school staff in supporting children and young people experiencing grief and loss.)

Childhood Bereavement Network - Click Here (Information for school staff in supporting children and young people through bereavement.)

Winston’s Wish - Click Here (Information for school staff in supporting children and young people through grief and loss.)

Mentally Healthy Schools - Click Here (Information for school staff in supporting children and young people through bereavement.)

Cruse Bereavement Care - Click Here (Support for schools on a wide range of bereavement issues)

Glasgow City Council/NHS - Click Here (A Whole School Approach to Supporting Loss and Bereavement)

SecEd - Click Here (Article on bereavement in schools entitled When death happens: Bereavement in schools)

Supporting Parents/Carers for a child affected by grief and loss

Rainbows - Click Here (Information for parents on Rainbows National Programme)

Winston’s Wish - Click Here (Support for parents on helping children dealing with grief and loss)

Sue Ryder - Click Here (Information for parents on helping their child through grief and loss.)

Together for short lives - Click Here (Information and support for families dealing with the death of a child.)

Young Minds - Click Here (Information for parents support children and young people with grief and loss)


Message from Rainbows Bereavement Support GB

When schools reopen, there will be a real and increased need for Rainbows. They will offer quality training in bereavement, grief and loss to staff enabling school staff to support their pupils in a small groups situation. As the Rainbows Resource Centre is closed they made some resources, including Silver Linings and When Somebody Dies, available to download for free

And provided a link to a terrific book for children explaining Coronavirus, also available to download for free

The Tablet recently published an article highlighting the experience of one of our own Headteachers -  Karen Cunningham, St John XIII Catholic Primary School, Hammersmith and Fulham. Please see attached on P4.

Finally, many of you will be aware that tomorrow Mary Ryan retires after 12 years of service to the Diocese. On behalf of all the Education Service I wish to pay tribute to her hard work, dedication and commitment to support our schools. Mary did a wonderful job in supporting Heads and Governors and will be sorely missed. We wish her a long and rewarding retirement and we will be inviting her back once the lockdown is over to publically celebrate her years of legal advice and guidance to all our community. I am very grateful to her for all she has done. We wish her every happiness and fulfilment in the years ahead.

Keep safe. Keep well and keep the faith.

With best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

22nd April 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

How are you feeling on Earth Day? Tired, concentration difficult? Lack of focus? Fear not. You are not alone and please look after yourself and those closest to you. I can fully relate to how you are feeling we are in this together.  On behalf of all the Education Service team we extend to you our appreciation and admiration for all you are doing to ensure the teaching and learning in our school community continues. We are very grateful. You are doing and continue to do a great job.

The links today are proving difficult to send due to the content size. Please find all resources on our website

If you can please join us this Friday and every Friday at 10.30am to recite a decade of the Rosary. In order to ensure this goes smoothly please use the attached link to a YouTube video for you to use at home or at school.

Caritas Westminster sends out £31,000 in emergency food vouchers

Caritas Westminster has sent out £31,000 in emergency food vouchers, to be distributed by parishes and schools to those in most need. Caritas Westminster already works with parishes and schools to alleviate food poverty in their local areas. More details can be found in the bulletin.

VASCA 2020/21 (The Replacement of LCVAP)

Nigel Spears has provided the latest information for schools on VASCA in the bulletin. Please read carefully.

This week we have made our focus Earth Day and the forthcoming Laudato Si Week 16th to 24th May 2020.

The Pope’s Message – Earth Day 22.04.20 courtesy of Robin Gomes, Vatican News

Holding his weekly general audience on the 50th Earth Day on Wednesday, Pope Francis called for common action and ecological conversion that lead to a deeper love for our common home and our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day.  This is an opportunity for renewing our commitment to caring for our common home.  We are called to cherish creation and all life within it, for the natural world is the “Gospel of Creation”, not a set of resources for us to exploit.  To overcome our selfishness and rediscover a sacred respect for the earth, we need a new way of seeing – an ecological conversion – for the earth is also God’s home and we stand on holy ground.  We can only be authentic custodians of the earth, and overcome the challenges before us – such as the coronavirus pandemic – by acting in solidarity with one another.  As the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ reminds us, we are one interdependent human family and so need a common response to the threats we face (cf. 164).  In this Easter season of renewal, as we strive to love more deeply our common home and all our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need, let us implore our Heavenly Father: “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (cf. Ps 104:30).

Celebrating the 50th Earth Day on Tuesday, Pope Francis pointed out that the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us that we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst.

Biblical origins

The Pope, who dedicated his 2015 enclyclical, “Laudato Si”, to the care of the created world, noted that we are fashioned from the earth and that the fruit of the earth sustains our life.  As the book of Genesis reminds us, we are not simply “earthly”; we also bear within us the ‘breath of life’ that comes from God.  Thus, he said, we live in this common home as one human family in biodiversity with God’s other creatures.  As the ‘image of God’, the Pope said, we are called to care for and respect all creatures, and to offer love and compassion to our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable among us, in imitation of God’s love for us, manifested in his Son Jesus.

Please see below an article that details Pope Francis’ call for a Laudato Si Week on 16th – 24th May 2020.

The Pope’s video message about this is also there.

The Vatican has launched a website to help celebrate this week with a toolkit for links

The above link to Cafod’s site has home learning resources on Earth day and the Sustainable Development Goals was well as some other resources for Secondary age students.

Conferencing Tools beyond Teams and Zoom

Vikki Bradney-Spencer is one of our best Chair of Governors.  She works at IBM and they have teamed up with Cisco to offer teachers free access to use Cisco's Webex conferencing tool (individual licences for every teacher) and to offer guidance on how to get started using the tool. They use it at IBM as our business "collaboration" platform. It is essentially video conferencing for teachers and pupils (it could be used for staff meetings/ planning etc as well as sessions with students) on a secure and stable platform. In IBM, they  use it across 100 countries/ 400k employees and its very stable and secure and puts the host completely in control. There is no limit to the number of teachers per school and the free licenses will last ad infinitum. 100 people maximum per "meeting" and each meeting can last as long as needed (ie hours). It can be used for meetings/ 1-2-1 whatever is needed...

Vikki has been using Webex to run her Governor meetings at St Anne's and she will be starting to do some training for teachers at St Anne's so they can use it with pupils.

Here is a blog giving more information

If any teachers/ schools are interested and keen to give it a go - they can just complete their details here on this link (link is in the blog too).

It will go through to our Volunteer Coordinators Team at IBM and then they will match volunteers with schools if help is needed. Please let Vikki know if you have any questions.

Thank you all for what you are doing for your school communities just now. Keep strong. Keep safe and keep the faith.

My friend Raymond Friel has kindly given permission to send you this prayer. Very poignant for our time today.

God our loving Father

We gather together this morning

But it’s not the same; many of us are not here

And there is a distance between those who are –

Not the distance of fear or mistrust,

But the distance of care, of thoughtfulness,

The distance that will help us to stop the virus from spreading


We pray for friends and classmates who are at home.

We know we will see them again in real life

And value their real presence even more, the gift of friendship.

Help us to “see” more clearly what is important,

The good things we had perhaps overlooked,

The small details of every day life,

Graced with your presence.

We pray for a better world to come out of this –

More grateful for the people who do the ordinary jobs,

More just in the way people are treated, more caring for the vulnerable.

We pray for a world which is more determined

To look after the earth, our common home;

A world that will live wisely, think deeply,

Love generously.

We make all our prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

15th April 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

On behalf of all the Education Service wishing you every blessing and good wishes for the Eastertide. In spite of all you are trying to cope with right now take strength and comfort in the Risen Lord.

His Eminence Cardinal Nichols put it so vividly in his Easter message, “Here on this Easter Day, a new horizon opens for us and we try and live by that horizon. We try and live these moments, difficult, joyful, however they may be, against the horizon of an eternal life, which is the Risen Lord’s gift to us. So we rejoice this day. We give each other such warm Easter greetings, even at a distance, and renew in ourselves our faith in the Living Christ. Alleluia. He is risen. Give thanks to God.”

Our Witness to the Word Bulletin this week has many new resources and links for your school community. We hope you will find them useful.

As you are aware the Education Service welcomes you to join with us every Friday at 10.30am to recite a decade of the Rosary. In order to ensure this goes smoothly this Friday please use the attached link to a YouTube video for you to use at home or at school. We will be joining you in prayer at the same time. Fr Peter Gallagher SJ has written a very enlightening piece you may find interesting too


We have had questions concerning the recruitment process and whether it can continue in the current circumstances, and if it can, how it should best be managed.  In particular, we have been asked what is going to happen in relation to notice provisions which require that notice needs to be provided by April 30th for head teachers and May 31st for teaching staff.

The current advice from the Department is that schools are responsible for managing their workforce and will need to continue to assess their staffing needs and recruitment requirements. When conducting recruitment activity, schools should have regard to the government’s guidance on social distancing which means that face to face interviews will not be possible.  Interviews will need to be held virtually or will need to be delayed as appropriate.  The Department has agreed to look into the question of notice periods and come back to us with appropriate guidance.

It is worth noting, that it is possible for employers to accept less notice than is provided in an employee’s contract of employment but we appreciate that in schools this could cause problems in that it may make it difficult for schools to recruit to fill positions if a consistent approach is not adopted across the board.  We will provide further guidance on this issue as soon as it is available.

The LGA has published some useful guidance on employment issues and you may wish to refer to that for further guidance on employment related issues:


You will have seen the guidance issued by the Department in relation to governance.  Governors should not be meeting in person and should be conducting any business that is urgent using virtual meetings.  It is important to ensure that any communications with governors, whether by way of virtual meetings or email communication, are secure and we would advise governing bodies to agree a basic protocol setting out how such meetings will be run.  Browne Jacobson has produced some useful FAQs for governing bodies which address some of the main concerns.

Funding Questions

The CES have been asked for guidance about what schools should be doing in relation to paying their contractors.  The guidance on .gov states “Schools will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year as usual regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure.  This will ensure that they are able to continue to pay their staff and meet their other regular financial commitments”.  This guidance and the Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note (PPN 02/20) would suggest that schools should continue to pay those financial commitments that they have budgeted for but arrangements will need to be reviewed on a case by case basis in order to determine what arrangements can be made.  We are aware that there may be some disparity between the Cabinet Office guidance and what is expected of schools and/or the advice that is being provided by local authorities. We have asked the Department for further clarity on this point and await further information. We will keep you informed as further guidance on this becomes available.

You should also note the guidance published yesterday setting out the financial support the DfE is putting in place to support schools during this time. Schools will continue to receive their core funding allocations for the 2020-21 financial year regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure. Exceptional funding is being provided for specific items judged likely to be necessary to allow schools to provide appropriate support to children continuing to attend schools under the current arrangements. Eligibility criteria to access the funding are set out in the guidance, School Funding: exceptional costs associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) for the period March to July 2020, which can be accessed here:

School Admission Appeal Code Guidance

The DfE has now provided an update to say that in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic a number of organisations have contacted them asking for advice regarding school admission appeals. In particular, how to overcome the challenges posed by social distancing to in person appeal hearings.

In response to these queries the Department is currently drafting urgent temporary regulation measures which will disapply certain elements of the School Admission Appeal Code. The aim of the regulations is to give admissions authorities as much flexibility as possible to manage appeals in a way that best suits their local circumstance. It is anticipated that the regulatory changes will come into force on the 24 April 2020.

Specifically, the new regulations, which will be in force until 31 January 2021, will:

  • Disapply the requirement that appeal panels must be held in person and instead give flexibility for the panel hearing to take place either in person, by telephone, video conference or through paper-based appeals where all parties can make representations in writing;
  • Relax the rules with regards to what happens if one of the three panel members withdraws (temporarily or permanently) to make it permissible for the panel to continue with and conclude the panel as a panel of two; and
  • Amend the deadlines relating to appeals for the time that the new regulations are in force.

It has, however, been highlighted by the Department that the regulations will not remove any of the clerking duties for admissions appeals. In addition, parents will retain the right to lodge a maladministration complaint if they are unhappy with the way their appeal has been administered.

The regulations are currently pending Parliamentary approval. The CES will provide a further update once the regulations and guidance are available.

In advance of Primary National Offer Day we hope that this information about the forthcoming regulations will assist you in providing guidance to your schools about planning for upcoming appeals.

The full announcement with additional information on the proposals is available at

Legal Advice Updates

Winckworth Sherwood have offered advice to schools. See the link below:

Winckworth Sherwood Business Continuity Statement in response to COVID-19

BrowneJacobsonn has now produced a free toolkit for governing bodies and academy trusts regarding what to do re employment matters during the lockdown. This covers many frequently asked questions including furloughing of staff, what do regarding wraparound and nursery staff, temporary staff, recruitment and dealing with unions.

Wishing you all good health.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

8th April 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Please find attached materials that have been produced by Elaine Arundell, of the Education Service, for our Praying of the Rosary and the Dowry of Mary publications.

I have also attached some helpful advice on child protection policies and Adult Mental Health.

The Education Service wishes to join all schools this Friday who remain open in reciting a decade of the Rosary at 10.30am.  This is the access code that attendees will need in order to see the live event:

We hope as many of you as possible can join us at school or home.

On behalf of all the Education Service we wish you a happy and blessed Easter.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

9th April 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Following the publication yesterday of Witness to the Word I have the pleasure of updating you in regard to some of the content.

In these uncertain times the mental health of our community is of paramount importance.   Within the Education Department we aim to support our school communities by signposting support to aid the well-being of colleagues within schools and the children and families that they serve. In the short term this will be through links to resources via the weekly bulletin.  To aid the long term support for schools in addressing well-being and positive mental health we are signposting resources that provide training for staff.


The PowerPoint presentation ‘Adult Mental Health First Aid’ is aimed at highlighting the training programme devised by MHFA England.  It is not in itself a training tool on mental health, but rather sets out the content of the two-day training course that staff, who wish to become Mental Health First Aiders, will cover. This course can be accessed through or via the Catholic Children’s Society

Schools can also seek to become Mentally Healthy Schools through initiatives such as I am very grateful to my colleague Patrick Murphy who is doing the research for the Education Service on this.

Finally Leo Duggan, Head of St Lawrence’s Catholic Primary School, has reminded me to publish the school address – St Lawrence Catholic Primary School, Victoria Road, Feltham TW13 4AF.

On behalf of all the Education Service we wish you a happy and blessed Easter and joy in the risen Christ.


Dear Lord,

May we who are merely inconvenienced,

Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors,

Remember those who are vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home,

Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close,

Remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips,

Remember those that have no places to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market,

Remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for quarantine at home,

Remember those who have no home.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,

Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.


Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education  

1st April 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Be assured of our prayers and support. For you and all your school community. Keep strong. Keep well. Keep the faith.

Today I have attached for you more resources and links that the Education Service hopes will be of interest. This commitment to you will continue every Wednesday for the foreseeable future.

As a community of schools we are committed to work with one another for the Common Good. I am very conscious that Heads are seeing a significant rise in stress related incidents and concern over the well-being of staff and pupils. In our bulletin today we have provided for you some links that may help you through the weeks ahead.

The Education Service is concerned that there is inconsistency in the provision for FSM pupils and if you have any concerns over the quality of food your pupils are receiving out with the voucher programme please let me know. We need to ensure our most vulnerable are supported at this time.

Many of you will have heard what was said by Pope Francis in his message to the City and to the World earlier this week. We can take great solace from these words.

“The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours

when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by

his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of

isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves

us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the

grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled” – Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi, 27th March 2020.

Full text of the Holy Father’s speech.

Thank you for all you are doing for your school community and for Catholic education. Please keep us informed of the status of your school. If you are closed or open; closed for Easter

holidays only; part of a cluster arrangement; or taking in pupils from elsewhere. Here is a link to let us know your current situation.

Please complete in order for us to feedback to you next week what the situation is across the diocese.

Best wishes from all the Education Service

JP Morrison  | Director of Education

25th March 2020

Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

On behalf of all the Education Service may I extend to you our sincere thanks and appreciation for the incredible work you have done in recent days to manage your school community. You have been outstanding and we are very privileged to work with you.

I am very conscious how difficult and stressful it is now. You have brilliantly managed the need to provide work for pupils at home. However, it is our understanding that many are finding the management of the well-being of staff a real struggle for a wide range of reasons. Please ensure you look after your own mental and physical health first. If you wish to speak to me or any of the team please feel free to do so. We are here to help you. Enclosed in our bulletin today are links to organisations who offer support with mental health well-being.

Take each day at a time. Seek the graces in each day and cherish the mission Catholic education provides for us all.

Be careful how you react to staff who are understandably nervous and anxious. I would advise managing expectation through kindness and tenderness.

As promised each Wednesday, for the foreseeable future, we will be sending you a weekly bulletin we are calling “Witness to the Word”. This includes a wide range of resources for you that we hope will be of interest.

Your comments are welcome and recommendations for future bulletins too.

If you have links and resources you wish to share with colleagues please let me know. We can incorporate them into future weekly bulletins.

The Department of Education have asked for all the schools in the Diocese to complete a short questionnaire and here is the link.

Please ensure this is completed as soon as possible as this information is valuable for both the government and the Diocese. It focuses on the current position your school is in terms of numbers etc. We know that pupil attendance at school has significantly fallen this week to very low numbers.

We are conscious that LAs are beginning to cluster school provision. If you have been asked to do this please let me know. We do support Catholic schools working together in local areas to manage this arrangement if you are able to do so.

‘Tonight before falling asleep
think about when we will return to the street.

When we hug again,
when all the shopping together will seem like a party.

Let's think about when the coffees will return to the bar,
the small talk, the photos close to each other.

We think about when it will be all a memory
but normality will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift.

We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us.
Every second will be precious.

Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter.

We will go back to laughing together.

Strength and courage.’

Pope Francis

Thank you for everything you are doing for the pupils and staff at your wonderful school. Keep well. Keep strong. Keep the faith. Keep in touch.

Best wishes

JP Morrison  | Director of Education