Angela Cox, Director of Education for the Diocese of Leeds is to be recognised in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List for Services to Education, becoming an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Angela has been Director of Education for the Diocese for the past six years, overseeing the provision of Catholic education across eight local authority areas in the Diocese’s 93 schools. Having lived in the region since attending Leeds University, Angela previously worked on the education team at Leeds City Council, and is a parishioner at the church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in St John Mary Vianney Parish in North Leeds.
Angela, who will receive her OBE at a special ceremony to take place in the next few months, said: “It is a privilege to have this role in Catholic education. It is the nature of the awards that they are given to an individual but this is recognition of the team of colleagues in the Diocese and in our schools and colleges who do so much to benefit Catholic education and the children in their care.”
The Rt Rev Marcus Stock is Bishop of Leeds and is himself an educationalist. Upon learning of the honour for his Director of Education, the Bishop said:
‘Angela Cox has given outstanding service to the Diocese and continues to provide excellent advice on all matters relating to our Catholic schools. She has also been very supportive of the work of the Catholic Education Service nationally for England and Wales. I am very pleased that the contribution Angela has made to education, both regionally and nationally, has been recognised in the honour awarded by Her Majesty the Queen.’
The OBE is awarded to people who fulfil a major local role and whose work has brought them national recognition in their chosen area.
Like most primary schools this time each year, thoughts turn to the Nativity play and the various stresses surrounding it. These include organising dozens of sheep, shepherds and angels, getting all the lines learnt and of course, deciding who’s going to play Mary.
At Catholic schools, the Nativity play is understandably a really important part of their year, but with over 60% of the pupils at St Mary’s and St Peter’s Catholic Primary school in Bradford being Muslim, you might think including everyone in this festival is a challenge. For them however, the truth is it simply isn’t.
Last year the school had children from different faiths and nationalities take part in their Nativity and this Christmas it will be no different.
By including children and families of different faiths, the school believes that they are not imposing Catholicism on them, but are sharing the gift of faith. At St Mary’s and St Peter’s , non-Catholic children are never forced to make the sign of the cross and when they pray it is made clear that children can pray to their own God.
Julie Holland, Head teacher at St Peter and St Mary’s believes that clarity with parents is by far and away the most important element of getting parental buy-in to the school’s ethos. Before children even start she sits down with prospective parents and is crystal clear about how the Catholic faith is fundamental to everything that is done by the school.
Julie commented: “For the vast majority of non-Catholic parents, this is perfectly acceptable, moreover it is the emphasis that we put on faith which makes our school such an attractive option for their child. Many think that to create religious tolerance you must remove it completely from the public sphere, but if anything we show that by being open about your own faith, parents of different religious convictions feel that their faith is respected. You don’t create religious tolerance by saying faith is something that should be kept behind closed doors.”
Julie believes that for a lot of parents, the popularity of a Catholic education among non-Catholic parents goes down to key basic principles, including, respect and good behaviour, attitudes which she considers are promoted by all religions. The values and expectations we set continue when the children are at home.
But what is the impact on the children? Looking at the experience of St Mary’s and St Peter’s, it is extremely positive. From an early age children interact with others of different religions. What’s more the school has fostered an atmosphere where children feel comfortable talking about religion and discussing the big questions about God and human dignity with those of other beliefs.
Julie concluded: “This year proud Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh parents will watch their child celebrate the birth of Christ in our Nativity. For both parents and pupils alike, this religious diversity is normal, something which I am proud to say has been achieved through an unapologetically Catholic education.”
More than one in five black children now attend a Catholic school. That’s according to the latest research which shows the Catholic Church to be the most ethnically diverse provider of education in the country.
With roughly 10% of schools, the Catholic Church is the second largest provider of education in the country. However, this tenth of provision now educates more than fifth of all black pupils in the country.
The figures, which are part of the annual Catholic Education Service’s Schools Census, also reveal the extent the Catholic Church is helping to integrate Eastern European migrants with British society, as almost one in five pupils from minority white backgrounds go to a Catholic school.
Across the board, Catholic schools educate 21% more pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds compared to other schools.
Statistics also show that ethnic minority pupils in Catholic secondary schools perform better at GCSE than the national average.
Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service commented: “For another year running, Catholic schools are the most ethnically diverse in the country.
“What’s more, Catholic schools are not just more diverse but disproportionally more so. The fact that a tenth of all schools educates a fifth of certain ethnic minorities is an incredible achievement.
“With Catholicism being a largely immigrant faith in England, Catholic schools have a strong track record of taking in children from a wide range of ethnic minorities and producing well-educated, open minded, citizens.
“It is very easy for secularist campaigners to claim that religious ethos schools are divisive and segregate communities but the evidence for this simply doesn’t back this up.”
Notes to editors
There are more than 2200 Catholic Schools in England and Wales.
The Catholic sector is the second largest provider of education and currently educates 852,321 pupils.
There are a total of 307,663 ethnic minority pupils in Catholic schools (36.1% of pupils).
One in seven ethnic minority pupils in England and Wales attend a Catholic school