Catholic schools form the soul as well as the mind – so it’s not just the students who need mentoring

At this time of year most schools will be welcoming newly qualified teachers who are embarking upon a career. Theirs will, one hopes, be a lifelong vocation which will benefit the lives of many thousands of young people.

The first few years of teaching can be a rollercoaster of emotions: ardour, doubt, anxiety and hope. The support that we give to new teachers is therefore vital for the wellbeing of all in our Catholic school communities.

More than ever we have to safeguard our schools and ensure that they remain true to their founding principles. Part of this mission is helping new teachers to continue a journey away from secular careerism towards a deeper understanding of themselves and their vocation. This will take time and involve the giving of much support and space to flourish.

One of the aims of a Catholic school should be that they are places where young people become fully human, discovering who they are and what their purpose in life should be in relation to God and humanity. This is something which largely goes against the views of the world and the reality of contemporary secular education. All too often the torrent of requirements from the state and individual academic attainment appear to be the prevailing focus. How can we hope to counter this unless teachers in Catholic schools are confident and growing in their vocation?

Encouraging staff to think vocationally may also be a key to retaining teachers. A staggering 27,500 teachers who trained between 2011 and 2015 (that is, 23 per cent) have already left the profession. There are complicated reasons for this – but might supporting newly qualified teachers to develop a sense of their work as a vocation help them through the difficulties which they are likely to face in the tough world of education? This is a wonderful gift which Catholic schools can offer.

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