Queen Elizabeth and the Common Good in Schools
Recent events have made the nation stop in its tracks as they come to terms with the personal loyalty and dedication of Elizabeth to the service of the country. It is as if we have recognised how strong, faithful and self-sacrificing she has been since her first vow to serve the country with her whole life.
That dedication is an expression of some aspects of the common good which is at the heart of the mission of a Catholic School. So it is appropriate to reflect on the links between what we see in her life and the dedication we see in every school. The loyalty, self-sacrifice and sheer hard work of the school community is also a reflection of the common good at work in our Catholic schools.
Here is a definition of the common good, drawn from Pope St. John XXIII and quoted in the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes: the common good is
“the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.”
The common good is concerned with creating space where people can thrive, free from fear, and grow to their full potential. That is what we try to do in Catholic Schools expressing Gospel values through the following key concerns:
The motivation for living these values comes from the sacred nature of the human person and the hidden presence of God in their lives. When we realise that we are touching God's own life in ourselves, in others and in creation, everything becomes sacred and our school becomes a church even before a prayer is said.
As we move towards a new inspection framework for Catholic schools in England and Wales, it will benefit us to to become more familiar with common good values across the school community. When our diocese asks us to explain our work, our successes and struggles, are we ready to frame our responses in the language of the Gospel and of the common good?
The challenges hidden in the simple list of words above is enormous for every aspect of school life:
How do we express solidarity among staff when wages and conditions, promotions and workloads are being discussed?
How do we ensure participation in the life of the school community? How do we time and cost events to ensure maximum accessibility?
How do we make peace in our schools between our layers of management and among the pupils and parents?
How do we implement subsidiarity in decision making so that as far as possible everyone is informed and consulted?
Do we see the management of school resources and its environment as a spiritual task?
How do we reach out beyond the school to ensure that we protect human dignity, participate in our locality and witness to the Gospel as a school community?
Such questions can be raised again at the start of a new year in school, using the examples of loyalty and service of the Queen and other figures in the local community. Maybe we can use the present mood in the country to re-focus our school life on hard work, self-sacrifice and the common good. In doing so we will be drawing closer to the person of Jesus who is always at the centre of our school life.
Visit Together for The Common Good for more information and consider their schools programme if it meets your needs.