St. Michael's School Report

Rev. Robert Brucciani

St. Michael's School is the biggest undertaking of the District of Great Britain; associated with it, is our biggest Mass Centre and, in it, we have our greatest hope for the future of our Society in its mission to preserve and restore the Catholic priesthood.

Running a Catholic school is not easy: a Catholic school's mission is the highest—the education of souls for sanctity—and its operation is complex.

There are seven interested parties in any school, all with their own particular goals and needs: the management, parents, children, teachers/employees, insurers and government. And the government's interest is on many levels: educational, social, ideological, health & safety and financial. And the hurdles a school must clear to survive—legal compliance and financial viability—are very high.

Running a Catholic school is not easy. Our school, St. Michael's School, can bear witness to this fact, but, by the grace of God, it has survived since its founding in 1991.

Primary goals

It has survived, but it has not really flourished, for the Catholic measure of success of a school is primarily priestly and religious vocations; and secondarily, perseverance in the faith of its alumni. The first is easy to measure: we have had only one priestly vocation in almost 30 years, but there are four more alumni in formation (Joannes Rehm, Dominic O'Hart, Emmerich Jeindl and Christopher Sudlow) and there are four religious vocations

if you count two former teachers (Greg Jones, Miriam Gill, Stephanie Martin and Katrina Sudlow). In addition to these, there are perhaps the same number again of those who have had the generosity to try their vocations, but have discovered that God's will for them lay elsewhere. Counting the alumni only, therefore, roughly 3.6% of the total number of graduates of the school have tried a priestly or religious vocation. Room for improvement.

Of the 390 pupils who have passed through St. Michael's, it is not known what percentage have persevered in the faith because it is too difficult a thing to measure.

Of course, vocations and perseverance in the faith are dependent on more than the formation that the school can give. Family life is an even more important positive factor. The world (government and culture) is an ever-growing negative factor.

"What about academic success?" you might say. I remember hearing the consternation expressed by some parents and staff when Fr. Edward Black, the then District Superior (c.1996), declared that the purpose of the St. Michael's School was to make the children good. "What about their exam results, what about careers?" was the cry. Well, if we order ourselves correctly to God to dispose the souls in our charge to holiness, then that correct order to God includes disposing the children (and staff) to virtue—including the virtues associated with teaching and learning.

Put yourself right in order to God, and every good thing follows. In the past, Catholic schools have always been ahead of their non-Catholic counterparts because of the natural and supernatural virtues associated with the pursuit of holiness.

Pupil count

At present there are 81 pupils at the school of whom 41 are juniors, 11 are senior girls and 29 are senior boys, of which 20 are boarders. The senior boys and girls are educated separately which means that class sizes are very small (average 6 pupils) and consequently the costs per child are very high. A-level provision will completely cease next year because the cost (£60,000 pa) greatly exceeds demand. Suspending A-level provision, however, makes the school less appealing for prospective parents and causes our existing pupils to be thrown into the world at too tender an age. The school clearly needs more pupils to make it viable again. The break-even point for A-levels is 14 pupils across both years (with boys and girls separate—they will always be separate!).

Legal compliance

Over the last year and a half, the school has undergone an extensive reorganisation to make it legally compliant. Current legislation enforced by various government bodies (Ofsted, Environmental Health, Fire Department and the Local Authority) and many other statutory inspectors (gas, electricity, extractor hood, asbestos, water, fire alarms and fire extinguishers) have forced changes to the way the school is operated—changes that have increased costs and have caused upset among parents (no more casual visits to the chapel, or chatting in the car park after school for example).

The school now has 50 different interconnected policies (see the website). Each member of staff must present 20 different documents (certificates, declarations, identification and permits) before the commencement of employment. Risk assessments fill two lever-arch files. And this is just the paperwork. The work required for compliance has necessitated the employment of a full-time facilities manager and takes many hours for other staff.

While the facilities are now compliant, there remains a great concern that the school will fall foul of the latest ideologically-motivated government guidelines on teaching sex education, gender ideology and "British values" within mixed classes. We are seeking advice from all who may help—especially Our Lady and St. Michael. More prayers required.


The increasing financial burden of the school on the Society has been a cause for increasing concern over the last few years as we rely on uncertain legacies even for operational costs. The introduction of a new bursary system caused some parents to pay significantly higher fees last year which helped to bring their fees in line with costs, but the continued reluctance to pay even subsidised fees by other parents remains a cause of dismay and concern. There is no such thing as a free education!

The future

St. Michael's School is the most important apostolate in the District of Great Britain. Our financial investment and our investment of four priests, one brother and five oblate sisters is a sign of this. Their sacrifices make it all possible. The same may be said of the commitment shown by many of the faithful.

The school also depends upon increasing pupil numbers for which we pray and for which we will concentrate our marketing and organisational efforts. I want to see A-level provision at the earliest opportunity.

We also need a new chapel—not only because we have outgrown the existing one, or because it needs to be outside the school perimeter, but because it is falling down! A recent survey recommended the replacement of the roof and the immediate buttressing of the end wall of the chapel. The New Chapel Project has been taken off the back-burner; we just need another £1.5 million!

Of the different interest groups in the school, the two that can make the greatest difference if they work together are the management (the Society) and the parents. A common purpose for a truly Catholic education at home and at school would bring the greatest of blessings for both. A unity of action is especially imperative to fight the ideological battles that loom. And we do intend to fight them.

Despite the unceasing toil and great material sacrifice that running the school entails, the endeavour is primarily for a spiritual end which means that spiritual means are of greater importance than the material. Please do keep our Society and our school in your prayers. I know that many of you do already—the rosary between Masses at Burghclere is an example of this. Perhaps, whenever you pray to St. Michael Archangel, you might remember to recommend to him the school we have placed under his patronage. He will present our petitions before the throne of God. And they will be heard, for quis ut Deus?

St. Michael Archangel, pray for us!

View all the articles from Ite Missa Est