Memorandum on Appointment of Teachers in Catholic Schools

The Bishops’ Memorandum sets out the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ expectations about the appointment of staff in Catholic schools.

Throughout this document the term ‘Catholic school’ means all Catholic schools and colleges, including schools in the trusteeship of a religious order. This includes maintained schools, academies in England, independent schools, sixth form colleges and non-maintained special schools.

Purpose of the Guidance

Its purpose is to help and guide Governing Bodies to fulfil their responsibilities, including statutory responsibilities, to preserve and develop the Catholic character of the school in relation to the appointment of staff.

The Governing Bodies are the employers of the staff, to whom they should give clear guidelines about the Catholic character of education and life in their school.

As employers the Governing Body must ensure that the appropriate contract of employment and associated documentation, as published by the Catholic Education Service (“CES”), is issued. It is because the contracts reflect the Bishops’ requirements that the Catholic character of schools is preserved and developed that the Bishops expect all schools to use CES model contracts of employment for their staff. The CES model contracts ensure, in the context of the role within the school which the employee is employed to perform, the preservation, maintenance and development of the Catholic character of the school.

Appointment of Teachers in Catholic Schools

The preservation and development of the quality and distinctive nature of Catholic schools depends on the faith, practice and commitment of the teachers in the schools, working with their Governing Body. The Catholic Church understands the vocation of a teacher as a form of ministry within the Church. All teachers in Catholic schools are employed to participate in the Church’s teaching office, exercising this ministry in accordance with the Church’s teachings. This requires teachers to be witnesses in word and deed to the Divine Teacher, Jesus Christ.

To find Catholic teachers who combine personal conviction and practice of the faith with the required professional qualifications and experience, especially in specialist subjects, is always a high priority. The recognition of the role that Catholic teachers play stands alongside the value we place on teachers of other Christian denominations, other Faiths and other teachers who contribute to and support the Catholic ethos in our schools. We recognise the great contribution they make in helping to ensure that our pupils are equipped to communicate with and participate in contemporary society.

Governing Bodies, as the employers of staff, have a duty to ensure that the Catholic character of the school is maintained and developed. The Bishops’ expect that Governing Bodies will employ Catholic teachers who combine personal conviction and practice of the faith with the required professional qualifications and experience, in order to ensure this.

Appointment of Leaders in Catholic Schools

As a minimum requirement the Bishops expect that the posts of Head Teacher or Principal, Deputy Head Teacher or Deputy Principal and Head or Co-ordinator of Religious Education are to be filled by practising Catholics.

Whilst these posts have traditionally been used in schools, other senior leadership posts, and terminology, have come about in practice, often as a result of collaborative working arrangements between schools. Terms which are being used more frequently, and which are not defined in legislation, include: Executive Head Teacher, Associate Head Teacher and Head of School. The principle to be applied is that this minimum requirement will apply to the most senior leadership post i.e. the person with overall responsibility for the day to day management of the school, and the person who is the second most senior person in the leadership team.

The Bishops also expect that certain posts that directly affect the Catholic Mission of the school are to be filled by practising Catholics. This would include, for instance, the Chief Executive or equivalent of a Multi Academy Trust Company. Lay Chaplains also come within this description, but schools must in any case follow any specific procedures set down by their diocese before the appointment of any Chaplain.

Other Leadership posts that directly affect the Catholic Mission of the school should, wherever possible, be staffed by skilled practitioners who are committed Catholics.

All staff must respect and support the aims and objectives of a Catholic school.

Appointment of Leaders of Religious Education

Religious education is the core subject in every Catholic school and informs every aspect of the curriculum.

Primary: The Governing Body must ensure that Religious Education is properly organised, co-ordinated, taught and resourced. The Governing Body must ensure that the school has a Co-ordinator of RE and that the Coordinator should have at least parity in status and remuneration with those of the other core curriculum areas.

Secondary: The Religious Education department in our secondary schools is of particular importance and should have at least parity of status and resourcing with any other core subject department. Governing Bodies are urged to give the highest possible status to the department and to the person leading that department, and this should be reflected in their status and remuneration.

Representation at Short Listing and Interview

Interview procedures approved by Governing Bodies for teacher recruitment must be open to scrutiny. They must be clear, objective and transparent.

The Diocesan Bishop is entitled to be represented at all proceedings relating to the appointment of senior leaders and teachers of religious education.

Governing Bodies must facilitate the attendance of the Diocesan Director (or his or her nominee), either by affording them advisory rights or otherwise. These may be in relation to all appointments at the school or, more usually, to the appointment of the senior posts to which the requirement to be a practising Catholic are applied.

Governing Bodies must give sufficient advanced notification to the Diocesan Director of a vacancy for any senior post to which the requirement to be a practising Catholic is applied before taking any action, including appointing an acting Head Teacher or Principal, acting Deputy Head Teacher or Deputy Principal, or advertising the vacancy. It is particularly important to agree all meeting and interview dates with the Diocese in advance, to allow Diocesan Officers to be involved from the beginning of the process, including drawing up job descriptions and person specifications.

Furthermore a Diocesan representative may be invited whenever senior posts with pastoral responsibilities are being considered.

For appointments to which the requirement to be a practising Catholic are applied, the Governing Body will meet to draw up a shortlist of candidates, conduct interviews and make an appointment. The Governing Body may appoint a selection panel to undertake these functions. These appointments may need ratification by the full Governing Body.

In addition, the appropriate Diocesan Officer must always be invited to the interview of Heads of Religious Education and School Chaplains.

Delegation of Power of Appointment

When the Governing Body delegates its power and right of appointment of staff to a committee and/or to the Head Teacher or Principal, it is essential that the terms of reference for such delegation are made explicit.

Induction and Continuing Professional Development

The Governing Body should ensure an appropriate induction programme, emphasising the distinctive nature of Catholic education, is in place and that continuing professional development for all staff helps to sustain this understanding.


Archbishop Malcolm McMahon
Chairman, Department for Catholic Education and Formation
(11th September 2014)