Catenian Secondary Schools Initiative (CSSI)

To see SCHOOLS INITIATIVE DOCUMENTS, click on the link.

See: Working with the Young Adults of Tomorrow – v2  (Draft Article for Catholic Today)

Senior provincial and national members of The Catenian Association have enthusiastically endorsed our joint initiative with Solihull Circle to support Catholic Youth by putting together panels of Catenians and other interested Catholics with diverse backgrounds in Industry, Commerce and Public Service who will run Practice Job Interviews and Employability Workshops in local Catholic Secondary Schools for 4th (Y11), 5th (Y12) and 6th Form (Y13) Pupils.

To date (as of January 2016) we’ve interviewed, trained and/or  briefed more than 150 teenagers in two local schools….!

We put together two panels with 8 Brothers (plus one Brother’s wife and a non-Catenian Catholic lady) from North Warwickshire and Solihull Circles, supported by 4 other non-Catenian Catholic volunteers.  All but one of our volunteers have CRB clearance for working with vulnerable young people.

After discussions with St Peter’s Catholic Secondary School, we held  19 “general” interviews with 4th formers (Y11)  (assessing them for a notional job) and then a further 11 “specialist” (University and Medical School entrance practice) interviews with 6th formers in July 2014.

St Peter’s School greatly appreciated our help, and asked us to continue to support them with our Interview Programme in the 2015/16 School Year. The “Thank You” letter from the current Head Teacher of St Peter’s may be seen below.

St Peters Head Thank You letter - Jan 2015


The pictures below show some of St Peter’s past 6th Formers.

t Peters Image 2

St Peters Image 1St Peters Image 4

St Peters Image 3

We offered St Peter’s additional services in Autumn 2014 and trialled these with 55 x 4th Form (Y11) pupils, these services were:

(1) Employability Skills Workshops, in 3  One Hour sessions, starting with Writing CV’s, practical advice & examples for improving the pupil’s CV.  This included one-to-one assessments of submitted CVs, with personal advice on how to improve them. (For most pupils, this was the first time they’ve ever thought about how best to present themselves to a potential Employer.)

(2) The Workshop’s content included writing an Application Letter, researching Employers, and analysing Job Adverts, with advice & help available on real applications.

(3) Finally, the Workshops provided advice on Preparing for Interviews, important Do’s and Don’ts, preparing answers to popular interview questions, and the importance of both attitude and body language.

Pupils who attended the workshops had a 25 minute Practice Job Interview, with 5 minutes of verbal feedback at the end.

These workshops generally had 2 Volunteers (depending on the amount of personal help anticipated) and catered for an average of 8 pupils per one hour school period, helping upto 40 pupils per school day. To minimise disruption to the School, our Team was only there for 2 days/week.

We found the biggest challenge was to get the 4th year pupils to attend the (non-compulsory) Workshops, those who did attend were generally attentive, cooperative and appreciative, and (surprisingly!) this including those with known disciplinary problems or Special Educational Needs (perhaps 30%).

These activities were scheduled throughout the Autumn Term, to ease both our Volunteer scheduling  and to improve the school’s flexibility.

In November 2014 we started helping Archbishop Ilsley Catholic School in Acock’s Green, and worked with the Head and his senior team to devise a programme to address the needs of their pupils, who are from a much more diverse socio-economic mix than at St Peter’s in Solihull. We successfully delivered a compressed (only 1 hour) version of our Employability Workshops, plus about fifty x 6th form Interviews, including several MedSchool and Oxbridge Entrance Practice Interviews. The kids were very impressive and genuinely seemed to appreciate our help.

Below is a link to the “Thank You” letter from Martin Dougan, Head of Careers at Archbishop Ilsley School:

Tom Catenians

We hope this initiative will become Province-wide, and eventually spread across the Association, addressing Catholic Schools throughout the UK and beyond. Any Catenian Circle (or Catholic School) is welcome to download and use the comprehensive materials in our SCHOOLS INITIATIVE DOCUMENTS and we will be pleased to help them with practical guidance & advice wherever possible. For genuine help, contact or ring me on 0121 706 2118 (home) or 01783 921 749 (mobile).

We now (as at January 2016) have on our Panel:

  • Mike Brennan, is Solihull Circle’s Provincial Counsellor & has extensive experience in Sales and Marketing. (DBS Pending)

  • Harold Hands, the Province 6 Press & Publicity Officer, a Chartered Surveyor & a former Scout Leader (DBS Cleared)

  • Fedor Iwanciw is a former Senior Purchasing Manager with Cadbury’s, & has interviewing experience. (DBS being arranged )

  • Tom Brassil who is an Electrical Engineer with a BSc in Applied Science, a STEMNET Ambassador with experience in Domestic & International Sales, Marketing, Business and HR. Tom has worked for British Telecom & for independent telecomms suppliers, and in Manufacturing Industry, local & international Consultancy and for the NHS, and has extensive interviewing & training experience. (DBS Cleared)

  • Rex Marfleet who was Solihull Circle President in 2014/15, a former General Manager in the Plastic Raw Materials Industry & who has worked for both large and small companies, and has experience in sales, marketing and manufacturing. Rex has a HNC In Chemistry and extensive interviewing and recruiting experience.(DBS Cleared)

  • Tony Taylor is an Electrical Engineer, a retired National Grid Manager and a STEMNET Ambassador experienced with working with local Schools. (DBS Cleared)

  • Phil Rogerson (BSc Biology and MBA, Aston) is an ordained Deacon at St Ambrose Barlow Church in Hall Green. Phil spent most of his working life in the Police Force, retiring as a Deputy Chief Constable. Phil later studied criminology and sociology at Cambridge, and has extensive interviewing and recruitment experience. (DBS Cleared)

  • Eileen Moroney-Barnett is a working mum to Dominic, who has Downs Syndrome. She is Head of Business Development & Governance with Solihull Community Housing, and is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries & Administrators (ICSA). Eileen has Graduate Recruitment experience. (DBS Cleared)

  • Denise Poole is a retired Bank Official, she trained & interviewed graduates at Midland Bank. She also worked as a GP Practice Manager and managed their recruitment interviews. Denise left the NHS about 2 years ago, and has since sat on the Schools Appeal Panel. She has been the Sacristan at Olton Friary for many years, and is married to their talented church organist. (Denise is not a Catenian but offered to help.) (DBS Cleared)

We also have the following volunteers for our specialist Oxbridge and Medical Panel, to provide briefings to pupils who are preparing for Oxbridge Entrance or Medical (or Veterinary or Dentistry) School Interviews:

  • Doctor Denys Nicol, a retired GP and a Cambridge graduate who has worked with orphans in Romania. (DBS Cleared)

  • Paul Bentley, who is Enterprise Business Unit Leader with IBM Systems & Technology Group and is also chair of The Governors at Our Lady of the Wayside (OLW) Catholic Primary School. Paul is a Physics graduate of Keble College, Oxford, and since he became involved with this initiative he has joined Solihull Circle.  (DBS Cleared)

  • Michael Gach, a former St G&T pupil, is currently a 2nd year Medical School student at Lincoln College, Oxford. (Michael is not a Catenian but offered to help.) (DBS Cleared). Michael can run a very practical “Applying to Med School” briefing seminar for selected pupils on request.

If any other Brother (or better still, a female family member or friend) who has experience of recruitment interviewing and would like to help with this initiative, please contact the CSSI Organiser, Tom Brassil on or 0121 706 2118 (home) or 07803 921 749 (mobile).

We actually prefer that Volunteers are NOT teachers, as schools say they have many of these – they prefer experienced people from other professions as there’s a better chance that the pupils will listen and take note of what they say.

The likely time commitment per volunteer is estimated at somewhere between 5 and 15 hours each month. Obviously, more volunteers would help to spread the load.

There is a substantial untapped demand for this free service. We’re currently only addressing 2 schools (out of a total of 4 schools in our immediate “catchment area”), and having spoken to many School Governors, we know the others would also like to be included in the programme in future.

This is a “win-win” initiative.  We use our skills & experience to help meet the Association’s objective of encouraging Catholic Youth, establish valuable links with Catholic Schools, make The Catenians better known and (of course) the parents of 15 to 18 year olds are likely to be between 35 and 45 years old, which is our key recruitment target age group for new members.

(STEMNET is a national initiative to support pupils who wish to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Management and provides volunteers with a DBS Clearance (previously known as a CRB Check) at no cost to themselves to allow them to work freely with young people.)


SEE:  Catena_Article_-_The_Catenian_Secondary_Schools_Initiative


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