Applying our Ethos to a Project

23 mins audio, 25 mins activity/reflection

SECTION 1

Reflecting on a current project

Having put words to our ethos, we are going to think about how the vision, mission and values might apply to a specific area of a project with which we are currently engaged.

As of January 2024, we are in the middle of an in-depth review process of our Life to the Full programme for secondary schools that will lead to developing new resources. You may be completing this ethos course while that process is still underway or it may have been accomplished.

In case you are unfamiliar with Life to the Full Secondary

This is a complete RSHE programme for secondary schools and around 70% of all Catholic secondary schools in England and Wales subscribe to it. As of January 2024, there are seven modules across each of the five different year groups (years 7-11).

Life to the Full needs to comply with statutory requirements for schools with regard to Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) in England and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Wales.

Please read the text below which is how Life to the Full is described on our website:

From our October 2023 national survey of all subscribing schools and several school visits we have learned that the programme is being well received in many respects. But one area of criticism was around that final sentence about ‘meeting young people where they are at’ and about being fully inclusive.

Here is a sample of some of the comments taken from that survey about this issue:


Inclusivity needs to be handled with more sensitivity…. A greater awareness of the realities of life – especially for older students.

Some things seem very one-sided.

Not inclusive of all genders or relationship types. Can be perceived by LGBTQ+ students in a negative way.

And in our conversations with teachers in school, some similar remarks were made:

A lot of the topics can be portrayed in a problematic way (same-sex relationships as sex is defined as babies and bonding between a man and woman who love each other). Also, giving ‘not having sex’ as the main method of contraception could be problematic as there is no info about where to get contraception should someone choose to still have sex.

These comments raise some complex questions, but it is worth saying that they were not made across the board. Some schools mentioned how our resources were inclusive, balanced and accessible to all.

Age-appropriate and sensitive approach. Truly Catholic and inclusive; doesn’t alienate anyone.

Respectful and balanced coverage of issues underpinned by key religious teachings.

We don’t want to ignore these positive comments about inclusivity but it is also important to listen to those who see this as an area for improvement.

If we want to ‘Change the World with Creative Catholic Content’, we cannot ignore the voices of those who feel we are missing the mark.

How exactly to do that and honour all aspects of our ethos?

For example, how do we achieve the following goals at the same time?

  • compliance with statutory requirements
  • connecting with the experiences and perspectives of young people
  • sharing and being faithful to a Catholic vision and understanding

This challenge is particularly acute when we think about issues such as abortion, contraception and LGBTQ+.

In the next section we will briefly focus on one of those issues and consider three possible ideas for developing new content, testing them against our content values to help us discern.

SECTION 2

Development ideas for addressing sexuality and representation: do they work with our ethos?

For many schools LGBTQ+ matters are important for multiple reasons, for example:

  • because of the interest and concern of parents
  • because this is often a key focus of inspections
  • because of the importance given to this within the RSHE requirements
  • and above all, perhaps because of the pastoral care they want to give to pupils and students in a way that is kind, sensitive and truly expressive of the values of a Catholic school.

As we have already seen this is an area of the Life to the Full secondary programme that has been flagged for development.

Here are three ideas for new video content to consider.

As you look at each, think about whether they align with our ethos or not, or need to be reframed differently.

You may want to jot down or note some initial thoughts – e.g. yes, no, maybe and why…

Proposal 1

Currently, lesson content sporadically includes scenarios that describe situations involving LGBTQ+ young people. These are sometimes within discussion or extension activities. However, it has been suggested that LGBTQ+ young people should be more widely represented within our resources.

It has been proposed that the programme could be developed by introducing video content that includes pictures or graphics alongside scenarios describing LGBTQ+ young people and relationships. The goal would be to do this more consistently and regularly throughout the programme.

Consider: Does this proposal align with our ethos, or should the content be reframed differently?

Proposal 2

The programme currently does not hear any LGBTQ+ pupils talking about their views on Church teaching, for example on the question of same-sex marriage. It has been suggested by a teacher who uses the programme that this needs to change.

Therefore, a new proposal has been put forward to include the following content in a year 9 session about sex and marriage:

1) The voices of LGBTQ+ young people talking about their views.

2) A priest sharing his response as a pastor and evangelist.

Consider: Does this proposal align with our ethos, or should the content be reframed differently?

Proposal 3

Finally proposal number 3:

In our Year 11 programme, there is currently no content that looks at the relationship between LGBTQ+ and being Catholic, and one of the writers has suggested this needs to change.

It has been proposed that a new Year 11 session on sexuality and identity should feature young adults who are mostly Catholic (including those who are LGBTQ+) in a warm, open conversation with a lay person who identifies as gay, who is Catholic and is choosing to live chastely. This conversation should focuses on LGBTQ+ young people and their experience in the Church, alongside the Catholic Church’s teaching and pastoral practice.

Consider: Does this proposal align with our ethos, or should the content be reframed differently?

Before we focus in a bit more, you may want a reminder of the broader key reference points that lie behind our vision and mission. Feel free to add any further thoughts to your notes.

1. Creative Content

We are a content provider with creativity at our core.

2. Storytelling

We see drama and story as central to our work with its unique power to speak to hearts and minds.

3. Catholic

Our content is seen and shared through a Catholic lens. We want to be faithful to the beauty and truth of Catholic teaching.

4. Schools and beyond

While we currently work mainly within a Catholic setting with Catholic schools, the scope of our audience can and should expand beyond this.

5. Promoting growth

We want to support the personal growth, development and awareness of everyone who accesses our content.

6. Sensitivity

Mindful of the diversity of perspectives and beliefs of those who access our content, we want to present it in a way that is as inspirational, relevant, and accessible as possible. A balance of confidence and clarity alongside intelligent realism and sensitivity.

7. Christian values

We want our whole approach – everything we do and the way we do it – to be personal, relational, and rooted in Christian values.

I’m now going to hand over to you to reflect a bit more deeply on just one of these proposals so take a moment now to decide which one. Click to view them again here:

Decided? OK, please use this template to aid your reflection on one of the proposals – copy and adapt it and save to your desktop or your personal area.

Then note the gist of the proposal you are considering on the worksheet.

Reflection

Now as you use the worksheet to look at one of the proposals, think about whether it aligns with our ethos or not, or else need to be reframed differently.

  • What aspects of our ethos come into play here?
  • What seems right about the proposal?
  • What are your questions about it?

You will see that the worksheet gives some focus to your reflection and includes the mission and vision statements and our four content values. Together these should guide the decisions we make around what goes into our content and the way that it is presented.

When you come back to the next section, we will review each proposal in turn.

SECTION 3

How our ethos can guide us

Welcome back, let’s get stuck in as we review the proposals together.

First, proposal number 1:

Currently, lesson content sporadically includes scenarios that describe situations involving LGBTQ+ young people. These are sometimes within discussion or extension activities. However, it has been suggested that LGBTQ+ young people should be more widely represented within our resources.

It has been proposed that the programme could be developed by introducing video content that includes pictures or graphics alongside scenarios describing LGBTQ+ young people and relationships. The goal would be to do this more consistently and regularly across the whole programme.

Let’s begin to reflect:

  • RESPECT means we want to have in the foreground the dignity of each person, made in the image of God.
  • LGBTQ+ young people in Catholic schools may well feel marginalised or invisible as persons.
  • Representing scenarios that involve LGBTQ+ young people could help them feel included and ‘seen’.
  • We want our content to have INTEGRITY in sharing a Catholic vision but also to strive for INCLUSIVITY. That means a thoughtful, sensitive appreciation of the reality of LGBTQ+ young people and the challenges they face because of their sexuality.
  • Scenarios that are ‘true to life’ about crushes, relationships, coming-out could help support that goal, though each idea needs careful consideration.
  • FIDELITY and INTEGRITY means we might be wary of certain images or slogans. For example ‘Love is Love’ seems like a positive sounding idea, but for many people it is also expressing the belief that all forms of loving sexual relationship whether heterosexual or homosexual should be equally honoured, and affirmed. Since Catholic teaching about marriage is that it is by nature heterosexual, this might not be an appropriate slogan to use within an image, though it would depend on the context.
  • We know too that among Catholic staff and pupils, there will be some who do not agree with Church teaching and want to see it change. Adding LGBTQ+ representation to our content could be misread or misinterpreted as supporting that stance.
  • Difficult as it is to balance these things out, we know it is important to TRUST that a Catholic perspective can be framed in a way that celebrates the goodness of each person, yet does not contradict the truth and goodness of the Church’s teaching.

Overall, giving that visual representation (images or graphics?) of LGBTQ+ people when there is discussion around desire, attraction, discrimination or dignity is important and something we should thoughtfully work towards and this proposal could and should be part of that.

And now proposal number 2:

The programme currently does not hear any LGBTQ+ pupils talking about their views on Church teaching, for example on the question of same-sex marriage. It has been suggested by a teacher who uses the programme that this needs to change.

Therefore, a new proposal has been put forward to include the following content in a year 9 session about sex and marriage:

1) The voices of LGBTQ+ young people talking about their views.

2) A priest sharing his response as a pastor and evangelist.

We might first look at TRUST

  • We want to trust that hearing young people share their views is essential for good accompaniment, including those who are angry or dismissive.
  • We want to trust too that hearing from a priest who can sensitively and compassionately share about God’s love and the Church’s care for LGBTQ+ people as well as what the Church teaches about sex and marriage is an important thing.
  • We also want to trust that God has a place for everyone and a plan for everyone.
  • This links to INCLUSIVITY. God wants to draw LGBTQ+ people into a relationship with Him and so, without demanding adherence or agreement with Church teaching, we want that invitation to be shared.
  • RESPECT means it might be wise not to have school-age pupils on-screen speaking personally about their sexuality and perhaps even voices should be disguised.
  • Graphics and simple animation could help here
  • This is about protecting confidentiality and privacy while also allowing the voices of young people to be heard.
  • INTEGRITY might support the idea of not creating a ‘staged’ dialogue between a group of young people and a priest but instead having a clear distinction between what young people say and the thoughts a priest might give in response
  • However, just having one voice expressing a Catholic perspective might feel a bit ‘us and them’ which would work against INCLUSIVITY. Maybe other voices  – not just a priest, but others who can speak to the value and beauty of Catholic teaching (along with its challenges) should be included – e.g. married couples, engaged couples, and young people.

Overall, this idea is definitely in line with our ethos, but there are questions about

  • the practicality of it in terms of content creation
  • How to engage young people including LGBTQ+ people in sharing their views in an appropriate way that matches with the aims of the session, with safeguarding considerations taken into account.
  • How this format might land with young people in year 9 and staff – Could it inflame more than engage?
  • How ‘deep’ this could go and whether this age group is right for that.

Finally proposal number 3:

In our Year 11 programme, there is currently no content that looks at the relationship between LGBTQ+ and being Catholic, and one of the writers has suggested this needs to change.

It has been proposed that a new Year 11 session on sexuality and identity should feature young adults who are mostly Catholic (including those who are LGBTQ+) in a warm, open conversation with a lay person who identifies as gay, who is Catholic and is choosing to live chastely. This conversation should focus on LGBTQ+ young people and their experience in the Church, alongside the Catholic Church’s teaching and pastoral practice.

Some thoughts:

RESPECT 

  • There is a dialogue of openness and honesty proposed.
  • An older age group of young adults avoids privacy issues.
  • The context of the filming is a conversation not a debate in which the freedom of each person to speak their mind is honoured (and the film editing needs to allow for this too).
  • The conversation should model respect – how to disagree well.

TRUST 

  • This proposal assumes a level of maturity among young people in year 11. It trusts their ability to engage and listen to a discussion that could inflame emotions and polarise opinions.
  • The idea of a sharing of views and experiences connects to the Ten Ten mission to speak to hearts and minds.
  • The open forum means trusting that, different views can be expressed without compromising integrity.
  • A key factor is finding the right person who can share both their experience of growing up gay and also finding their place in the Church and appreciating the Church’s teaching on chastity.
  • Other voices may well express disagreement with or hurt about Church teaching – and that is OK.
  • The format involves some risk. It could ignite a new kind of openness to faith for those who identify as LGBTQ+ but it could also come across as irrelevant, marginal, pushing an agenda.

FIDELITY 

  • The witness of someone who is frank and open about their sexuality, faithful to the Church’s teaching, and striving to live this out practically is important.
  • It is also important to acknowledge the difficulties and the challenge around this.

INTEGRITY 

  • There is a bold proposal here to provide a perspective not often heard in schools.
  • It relies greatly on the person speaking having integrity and a sense of inner freedom and peace.

INCLUSIVITY

  • This proposal also relies on a group dynamic that feels genuinely inclusive, where a range of different views are heard and received and where those speaking come across as honest and authentic.
  • For many pupils, the ‘gay and chaste’ perspective will be new, strange or incomprehensible. A full range of reactions should be captured within the filmed conversation to represent this. It would also be good to make space for follow-up comments in private once the conversation is concluded. In this way, different participants can reflect more on what was shared and their reaction to it.

Overall, this proposal fully aligns with our ethos, but it’s ambitious practically and in other ways. We should not be afraid of offering a challenging perspective but we still have to ask if it’s the right approach with this year-group? Is this more suited to a sixth-form or even university-age audience?

While issues around content may not be directly relevant to your work, I hope these examples have shown how our ethos can help us begin to make wise judgments about specific ideas or map out a discernment process.

We will now consider how our ethos connects to our working relationships and our work as a team.

Switch Audio On