|Date of foundation:||1895|
In 2006 the GBR province is responsible for five Catholic secondary schools, serving nearly 5000 young people:
Thornleigh College, Bolton: 1626 boys and girls aged 11 to 18
All are now day schools without boarders. There were other Salesian secondary schools at Aberdour, Blaisdon, Cowley and Shrigley (our junior seminary), but these have now closed.
History and Background
When the Salesians came to Battersea (London) at the end of the nineteenth century, they founded a secondary school, with boarders, to meet the needs of boys intending to go on for the priesthood, but unable to afford the fees of other establishments. The academic syllabus was also suitable for those who chose to enter other professions. During the twentieth century the Salesians opened more schools to provide a good Catholic education in other parts of the UK and they now serve both boys and girls with a very wide range of academic abilities.
The English educational system does not include the sort of technical or trade school which is common in most of the Salesian world. However the curriculum of today's comprehensive (all-ability) schools contains a variety of practical and creative subjects. Many courses for students aged 16 to 18 prepare them more directly for the world of work rather than for university. Schools also offer opportunities for sport and other extra-curricular activities, providing many of the features of the traditional Salesian oratory.
In the UK, independent schools charge fees. State schools are funded through government taxes. Most Catholic schools, including all but one of our Salesian schools, take advantage of a very favourable arrangement which allows children from even the poorest families to enjoy a Catholic education without having to pay any fees at all. The government pays the teachers and other staff, and meets all the running costs. The Catholic Church (the Diocese, or in our case the Salesians) pays a small percentage of the cost of new buildings or major repairs, but appoints a majority of the Governors of the school. Among other things, the Governors appoint the teachers and control the ethos of the school.
Finding new ways
The number of SDBs working in our Salesian Schools has declined from the days when lay teachers were in a minority. In England we now have just two SDB head teachers and three other SDB teachers spread across our five schools. However we also have five SDBs working as school chaplains. In addition to leading liturgical celebrations, these have an important role in dealing with the wider pastoral needs of both staff and pupils and promoting the Salesian atmosphere of the school.
The province Youth Ministry Team provides regular training in Salesian ethos for governors of our schools and our head teachers and other teachers, SDB and lay. In this way the Salesian nature of our schools can be maintained in spite of the very few SDBs in the classroom.
Please see our province web site www.salesians.org.uk (especially the History section) for further information.