Understanding and Living the Ethos in a Catholic Primary School
Note: This document was created by the Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP), of which the Catholic Education Partnership (CEP) is the successor organisation.
How is the Ethos of a Catholic School Distinct from Other School Types?
What distinguishes the Catholic school is that its concept of the human person is rooted in the teaching of Jesus Christ as embodied in the Catholic faith community. Each person is a spiritual being who comes from God and whose destiny is to be with God when this life is over. The ideal of the Catholic school proposed here is one whose ethos or characteristic spirit is rooted in its ‘Christian concept of life centred on Jesus Christ: He is the One who ennobles people, gives meaning to human life, and is the model which the Catholic school offers to its pupils’.
The Catholic school also seeks ‘to promote the Christian concept of the world whereby the natural values, assimilated into the full understanding of man redeemed by Christ, may contribute to the good of society as a whole’. In this way Catholic schools have a robust spiritual and moral value system. This is appreciated not only by the Catholic parents, but also by laypeople of other religions or none who want their children to be educated in a Catholic school.
The Catholic school welcomes diversity and strives for inclusivity. It is open to people of other denominations, other faiths, and none, welcomes them into its community and respects their beliefs. The religious freedom and the personal conscience of individual students and their families must be respected, and this freedom is explicitly recognised by the Church. On the other hand, a Catholic school cannot relinquish its own freedom to proclaim the Gospel and to offer a formation based on the values to be found in a Christian education; this is its right and duty. While it maintains its own ethos and provides religious education and formation in the Catholic faith, the Catholic school sees this diversity as an opportunity for dialogue and understanding with those of different faiths. Building on what Pope Francis refers to as a culture of encounter and enriching its intercultural education, Catholic schools seek to cooperate with parents of other traditions who wish to provide religious instruction for the children in their own tradition. This welcoming ethos explains why Catholic schools are among the most inclusive schools in Ireland today.
What is the Ethos Process Developed by the CSP/CEP for Catholic Primary Schools?
Today, all schools find themselves in challenging circumstances due to enormous social, cultural and economic changes. In an age dominated by media and information technology, significant new pressures are brought to bear on children, on family structures, on religious practice, on employment and, not least, on behaviour in the school classroom. In this new cultural context every Catholic school needs to be aware of its identity and its relationship to tradition so that it is not just reacting to the latest trend or fashion but can truly articulate its self-understanding. The process presented in this document is intended to help you as a school community to do exactly this – to articulate who you are in an age that is dominated by secularism and privatisation.
Why should Catholic Schools Participate in this Process?
This ethos process is not intended to be bureaucratic or mechanical; it is a shared reflection on the part of all members of the school’s community on what the characteristic spirit of your school really is, not what it is supposed to be – it is an opportunity for your school to ask where you are in terms of your characteristic spirit, where you are going and what you are going to do to get there. It moves towards facilitating a school in understanding and living its characteristic spirit. Such a process is an important part of the overall development of the school and can contribute in various ways not only to school self-evaluation, but to the school community’s self-understanding of the lived reality which each member of the school experiences on a daily basis. Another important and unique aspect of the process is the fact that it is not an exercise undertaken by outside experts. Rather we invite the whole school community to articulate its own identity in light of the vision of the Catholic school as expressed by the CSP/CEP. In this way, the process better enables schools in taking ownership of the ethos of their school community. For instance, the process includes patrons, staff, pupils, parents, members of the board of management and the broader local community of which the school is a part. The key focus of the proposed process is on pupils, their welfare and education, and how these might be improved through reflection on the school’s characteristic spirit.
What is this Document?
In 2012, the CSP launched an ethos process for Catholic primary schools called A Process for Understanding, Supporting and Taking Ownership of the Characteristic Spirit in a Catholic Primary School. Since its initial launch, the process has been utilised by many Catholic schools in the Republic of Ireland. However, in 2015, the CSP decided that the ethos process should be revised in light of the experiences of Catholic primary schools that used the process as well as the theological and educational developments that have transpired since its initial launch in 2012. With this in mind, the process was subjected to significant revision as well as to a small-scale pilot in five individual schools each in a different diocese. Finally the process was subjected to a large-scale pilot in the Diocese of Kilmore among its sixty-nine Catholic primary schools. Following the success of both the small-scale and large-scale pilot, as well as the rich consultations that took place between the CSP and various stakeholders in Catholic education, final amendments were made to the process, all of which took account of the real experience of schools that used the process. We invite you to engage with the revised ethos process which aims to better facilitate schools in understanding and living the ethos in a Catholic primary school.
Introduction – Set Up Materials
Section One – School Resources
Student Lesson Plans
- Student Lesson Plan 1
- Student Lesson Plan 2
- Student Lesson Plan 3
- Student Lesson Plan 4
- Student Lesson Plan 5
Section Two – Additional Resources
- Facililtation Team Checklist
- Board of Management Checklist
- End of Year 1 BoM Process Report Form
- End of Year 2 (And Onwards) BoM Process Report Form
- Useful Publications and Resources