witness to the word
21st April 2021
Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,
First of all, welcome back and I hope you were able to prioritise some time for your own wellbeing over Easter and found time to relax during the holiday period with family and friends - where and when it was allowed of course. The term ahead will, we hope, gradually see the easing of government restrictions due to the covid pandemic, but as always with the summer term in schools and colleges, there is much to be done in addition to managing the additional burdens covid has brought upon your schools. Please continue to ask for help or support should you need it, either through your attached advisor or by contacting the education service directly.
The first edition of the 'Witness to the Word' for the summer term is attached, and we hope that you will find the range of information helpful to you and your school communities.
In addition, the following recently published information and links are all noteworthy for all school leaders and governors.
Governance Update April 2021

The Governance Team at the Department for Education has published the Governance Update for April 2021. Inthis edition, the DfE have created one version to cover both maintained schools and academy trusts – the articles are listed below for information.

1) Governing and trust boards meetings and visits into schools
2) National Tutoring Programme: subsidised tutoring available
3) ECF Statutory Induction Guidance Change
4) Honours nominations for those who work or volunteer in school or trust governance
5) Governor and trustee recruitment: Inspiring Governance and Academy Ambassadors
6) (Academy trusts only) How to complete or update your governance contacts on Get Information about Schools (GIAS).

The full details can be accessed at this link: School governance update: April 2021 - GOV.UK

Changes to the Ofsted Handbook
Ofsted has published a revised section 5 handbook, detailing how it will inspect schools later this term and, in the future, to take into account the impact of Covid. The most substantial changes relate directly to Covid including:

  • the potential need for a longer conversation before the inspection
  • how data will be used, given there is none for 2020 or 2021
  • how schools have adapted the curriculum, and how they are supporting catch-up
  • requirement to have taught the new RSE curriculum and to have consulted on and published a RSE policy
  • attendance of eligible pupils during lockdown.

The main changes and updated handbook can be read in full here. As a reminder, inspections will typically be section 8 monitoring visits of inadequate schools, schools with two ‘Requires Improvement’ gradings, and good schools not inspected within five years; and will not normally result in a change of grade.


The Education (National Curriculum) (Key Stages 1 and 2 Assessment Arrangements) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Order 2021

The DfE published on Tuesday, The Education (National Curriculum) (Key Stages 1 and 2 Assessment Arrangements) (England) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Order 2021 and comes into force with immediate effect.

This Order makes amendments to the secondary legislation relating to primary school assessments. The full text of the order can be accessed via: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/479/contents/made

This order has the effect that the Key Stages 1 and 2 assessments, checks, tests and related obligations, which would otherwise have taken place in, or in relation to, the 2020-21 school year (and in the case of the phonics screening check, the summer term of the 2020-21 school year) are no longer legally required.

Please also take note of the CPD sessions available this term, links are provided in the Witness to the Word, and also remember to register in advance for the next series of Regional Hub Meetings that take place during the week commencing Monday, 10th May.
Thank you for everyone who was able to attend the Leadership Conference just before Easter and I would also like to thank the members of the Education Service who made it all possible. The feedback received to date has been very positive but if you have not been able to complete your evaluations, please submit these as soon as possible so that we can provide links to the session recordings. And finally, I would like to thank all the schools who were able join the celebration of mass on Friday 26th March with Fr Chris Vipers, and those who were able to access the recording to celebrate in your final week of term. I must also thank Deacon Liam Lynch for his cinematography and technical knowledge to bring this to fruition. There were 1243 live links on Friday 26th, most of which would have been streamed to a class with 25 or more pupils and staff in attendance - that is potentially a congregation of over 25,000, true inspiring, thank you all for being part of something very special.

Wishing you and your school communities all the very best for the week ahead.

Peter Sweeney

crestPeter Sweeney | Interim Director

Witness to the Word Bulletins


Wednesday 16th March 2021


Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Good morning to you and I hope that you are all safe and well.

Next Tuesday, 23 March, has been identified as a National Day of Reflection marking the anniversary of the first national lockdown. So much has happened of the past year that it is sometimes hard to contemplate when we stop and think. Cardinal Vincent Nichols has issued an email today to schools with his own message and a statement from the Presidency of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon which has also been attached to this bulletin.

Our Leadership Conference takes place next week, starting on Tuesday 23rd March through to Thursday 25th March. Thank you to all the schools who have already booked a place, for those who still have it on your 'to do' list, please make your booking as soon as possible as we need to ensure we have the correct capacity for breakout rooms and other aspects of the conference. We understand that for many of you this may be the last week of this term, however, please also remember that by booking a place you will also have access to all the recording of the presentations from the conference to review or watch at a later date.

Also attached is a copy of the Education Service Summer Term CPD programme. Please distribute and promote amongst you school leaders, teachers and governors.

The Education Service has recently launched our new Twitter and Instagram accounts.  The links to these can be found at the top of the first page of the bulletin to both of our accounts. If you are on Twitter or Instagram, please look us up and follow our new accounts.

And finally, Happy St Patricks Day.

May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.

Education Service
Click Here - Witness to the Word School Bulletin 17th March 2021

Click Here - Statement on National Day of Reflection

Click Here - Witness to the Word School Bulletin 3rd March 2021


Wednesday 3rd March 2021


Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

First and foremost, I hope that you are all safe and well.

I know that since the notification from the Government to allow all pupils to return to school from 8th March, you will have been busy planning and looking forward to welcoming them back. Thank you for all the care, support and leadership you have provided for your school communities over the past year and for that which you will also be providing over the coming weeks and months to re-establish the conditions that will enable your pupils to flourish and fulfil their potential. Understandably, there will still be many challenges to face in the weeks ahead. Please be assured that the Education Service is ready and available to support you and your school communities as we work together to lead our schools out of the current pandemic.

Please find attached the latest edition of the Witness to the Word as well as the full programme for our Online Leadership Conference scheduled for 23rd - 25th March.  This is a conference that is relevant to all levels of leadership, staff and governors.  We are delighted to have secured so many high quality speakers and will be recording sessions and sending to those schools who participate following the conference to share and use with their staff.   Please can we encourage you to purchase your school ticket as soon as possible here.

Please also save Friday 26th March at 10am in your calendars as we hope you and your school communities can join us for a diocesan wide online Mass celebrated by Fr Chris Vipers.  Further details will follow.

Do not hesitate to contact us for any help, support or guidance you may require.

With best wishes,

Peter Sweeney

Education Service

Wednesday 10th February 2021


Dear Colleagues in Catholic Education,

As we approach the end of another extraordinarily demanding half term which has continued to test the resolve of school leaders, teachers, support staff, parents, governors and most of all the pupils in our schools, I wish to express our enormous thanks and gratitude for all you continue to do for the communities you serve. Without your dedicated care, compassion, inspiration, guidance and hope for the future, they would not have made it this far.  It is tremendously uplifting and humbling to witness the positive actions you are taking as school leaders to bring the best out of those in your care, and the support you provide for each other. It is our connection to each other, our hope for a better future, and our deep sense of purpose that will prevail. Please ensure you make time to stop over half term, take a deserved break and get some rest. Although we do not yet know what the next half term holds for our schools and communities, together we will make it through. Thank you for all you continue to do, for putting others first and instilling hope in those you lead.

Lent begins during the half term holiday and is a precious time in the Church's year as we reflect, take stock, and look both inwardly at our own lives, and out into the world seeing everyone as our neighbour. I am reminded of a quote from Plato, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." In these recent times of struggle, we especially look to the sacrifice on the Cross as our inspiration, acknowledging those making their own sacrifice in the care of others, and remembering those we have lost and those who are ill amongst our communities. I would particularly ask you to remember in your prayers a former Headteacher of The Saint John Henry Newman Catholic School, Mr Barry Nash, who sadly passed away this week following a short illness.

This year our Leadership Conference has moved 'Online' and is open to all Staff and Governors. We have been able to gather an excellent range of speakers on a variety of topics that will inform, support and craft your future leadership. The Conference theme is inspired by John's words, "If we walk in the light, as he is the light, we have fellowship with one another." 1 John 1:7

The links on the booking website provide information on each speaker, the topics each will cover, and a suggested audience for each presentation although they are open to everyone who wishes to attend. More details on booking instructions can be found via the link below.

We are also delighted to share with you the news that Fr Chris Vipers (Director of the Agency for Evangelisation) will celebrate a live-streamed mass for all diocesan schools on the morning of Friday 26th March at 10:00 am to which all schools are invited. (Joining details and information will follow after half term).

With best wishes and every blessing,

Peter Sweeney

Education Service

Diocese of Westminster

Click Here - Witness to the Word School Bulletin 10th February 2021

Click Here - Witness to the Word School Bulletin 27th January 2021

Wednesday 27th February 2021


Dear Colleague in Catholic Education,

Good morning and first and foremost I hope that you are all safe and well despite the extremely challenging circumstances you are having to work under because of the current restrictions imposed as part of the third national lockdown.

The global pandemic has highlighted the role of public service and the value of education in society. It has been remarkable to witness and hear over recent says how you have responded so magnificently to open your schools to vulnerable children and those of critical workers, despite the challenges presented by the higher numbers of children identified as being able to access provision. At the same time, delivering high quality remote learning at such short notice is an amazing achievement given the circumstances and time you have had to respond. You continue to step up in the hour of need and demonstrate outstanding care for your communities, thank you.

We do not however underestimate there are still many challenges still to face and In the human endeavour of reciprocity, the education service is ready to support you and your school communities as we work together to navigate a safe passage for our schools through the current pandemic.

Please find attached the first edition of the Witness to the Word for 2021 and do not hesitate to contact the department for any help, support or guidance you may require.

With best wishes,

Peter Sweeney

Click Here - Witness to the Word School Bulletin 13th January 2021

Click Here - Coronovirus Novena

Click Here - Witness to the Word School Bulletin 9th December 2020

Click Here - Diocesan Regional Hubs 2020/21