Ethos and pastoral care: Catholic schools and school choice.

Year: 2001

Author: Freund, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Catholic schools have a particular ethos, an element that gives them a specific identity that is said to provide an educational environment that is distinct and unique. This distinctiveness, or ethos is described as the special character or spirit of the school ((O'Donnell 1986), and while this ethos is so seemingly impalpable as 'spirit' or 'school climate' it has real social consequences since it is this climate which creates difference; difference in the everyday reality of school life and also in the macro social world of markets and choice. Catholic schools are being seen as thriving on their social and cultural capital and, as part of this process, public schools have been seen as ' the negative other', as Catholic ethos, interpreted as academic success, pastoral care, and a sense of community becomes part of a marketing discourse and an important part of the process of parental decision making and school choice. It will be argued that the difference created by the ethos of Catholic schools provides opportunities in the acquisition of positional goods (Hirsch 1976), and self goods, the purchase of education in order to fashion identity and a sense of self (Foucault 1991). The paper is based on research at a Catholic Primary school in N.W. Sydney.