Catholic Schools in England Drop Terms “Mother” and “Father” on Admissions Forms

Students gathered at Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School

Catholic schools in England will no longer use the gendered terms “mother” and “father” on admissions forms after a government official ruled these could be potentially discriminatory. Crux reported:

“The Office of the Schools Adjudicator, which settles disputes on behalf of the government, upheld the objection of a parent who wished to enroll a child in Holy Ghost Catholic Primary School in London.

“The parent had been asked to fill in a form which left spaces only for the names of “mother/guardian” and “father/guardian” and argued that the terms discriminated against “separated, step- and gay parents.”

“Peter Goringe, one of 12 adjudicators, said in a late October ruling that ‘in the absence of any clarification of the term “parent,” the use of the words “mother” and “father” might, as the objector suggests, be taken to imply that the school is restricting its definition.'”

Not only Holy Ghost, but some 2,200 schools administered by the Catholic Education Service of the Bishops’ Conference England and Wales have now removed gendered language for parents, replacing “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2.”

This development follows other positive steps which have happened in England’s Catholic schools in the last year. In October, the headteacher at a Catholic high school wrote to parents letting them know students should use other students’ preferred name and pronouns. Earlier this year, the English bishops released an anti-bullying guide for Catholic schools, “Made in God’s Image:  Challenging homophobic and biphobic bullying in Catholic Schools.”

Though the changes were mandated at Holy Ghost, it is a positive step that the Catholic Education Service is implementing changes nationally. The goal now is for England’s Catholic schools–and, indeed ALL Catholic schools–to become more proactive in welcoming and supporting families with LGBT members, be they students, parents, or siblings. Simple fixes, like changing language on forms or normalizing the use of pronouns, may seem insignificant. But it is these small steps accumulating which leads to the larger changes wherein Catholic education becomes a space where every LGBT person can feel welcomed.

And if Catholic educators are looking for inspiration, they should review the Church of England’s newly-released guide on preventing anti-LGBT bullying, “Valuing All God’s Children,” which Bondings 2.0 covered here last month.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 6, 2017

Related Articles

The Tablet, “Catholic School Forced to Remove ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ from Admissions Form

3 replies
  1. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    This seems to me to be an example of denigrating or at least denying the reality of mother and father. Like the marriage argument, why does it seem to denigrate or at least deny the reality and beauty of marriage between a woman and man in order to acknowledge marriage between two men and two women? The terms father and mother, grandmother, grandfather are drenched in meaning so to remove them is to diminish parenthood. The Catholic Church is characterized by a “both/and” rather than an either/or way of proceeding. Surely, there is a both/and solution.
    In all the talk about recognizing transGENDER folks, why is stripping gender from parenthood not seen as a double standard?
    I am an Irish mother and grandmother and I’ll fight any man or woman who tries to refer to me as anything less.

  2. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I see no reason for the designation to be mother or father or parent one and parent two. This isn’t a sex/gender test, but a request for who legally cares for the child. In the real world it is common, but not universal (divorce, widow/er, foster status, same gender spouse, etc.) that parents are male and female and that there are two individuals legally responsible. As with same gender marriage, to broaden a term to be more inclusive does not diminish any other name, it just gives clarity to the definition of who is family. Jesus came for all, not an exclusive group. For a host of reasons a variety of individuals or combination there of may the party to contact about the child. We should all remember Vatican II obliges us to not look into a mirror that reflects who we are, but out a window onto the world as it is.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Tom, I think the drift of you argument is that the legal name of the parent (or caregiver) should be the designated signature on a document — quite independent of the chromosomal gender of the caregiver. In other words, the name which appears on someone’s driver’s license — or any other valid legal document — should be more than sufficient. If the caregiver’s first name on a legal document is (for example) “Marble” or “Japith” or “Kendren”, there’s absolutely no need for any additional gendered specification beyond the person’s registered legal name. If that’s your premise, I am in complete agreement. “The times, they are a-changin”. However, a made-up slang name — like “Mookie” or “Crumper” — probably would not (and should not) qualify for legal identification purposes.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *