CATHOLIC schools are architects of a shared and diverse future and contribute to an inclusive, respectful society, a senior bishop has said.
Bishop of Derry the Most Reverend Donal McKeown said Catholic education was valued and exercised a positive influence on society across the world.
His efence of faith education comes amid calls for a single system.
There are also moves by some schools to leave the Catholic sector in favour of becoming integrated.
Bishop McKeown, a former teacher and principal, made his comments in the annual report of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
There are more than 450 Catholic schools across the north.
The report looked at issues including inspection findings, examination achievements and the teaching workforce.
It noted that Catholic maintained schools continued to outperform all non-grammars when comparing pupils achieving three or more A-levels at A* to C.
At 58.4 per cent, the sector performed 6.1 per cent better than controlled non-grammar and 1.2 per cent better than all non-selective schools.
GCSE outcomes in grades A*-C including English and maths also continued to improve.
Of particular interest, the report noted, was the improvement over the past few years among children entitled to free school meals.
The report added that CCMS continued to be involved in integrated and shared education, through area planning.
It has also provided support to approved shared education campus schemes in areas including Ballycastle, Limavady and Moy.
Bishop McKeown, who is CCMS chairman, said the body was leading education and advocating for positive change.
He added that it was also clearly setting out how Catholic education could contribute to the common good.
“I am confident that the Catholic maintained sector in Northern Ireland will continue to be successful in not only improving outcomes for our children and young people and developing them as unique individuals, but in contributing to a more cohesive, inclusive and respectful society, which nurtures young people and prepares them for adult life,” he said.
“I appreciate how our schools are already quietly being very creative in how we accommodate both diverse backgrounds and high standards.
“These schools are not the relics of a divided past but are showing how they can be architects of a shared and diverse future.
“Indeed, it is their ethos of community and high expectations which attract people from a range of backgrounds.
“They are chosen by many parents not despite their ethos but because of it,” added the Bishop of Derry.