CHURCH OF ENGLAND schools perform on average, better in OFSTED
ratings than their community-school equivalents, the Bishop
of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who chairs the
Board of Education, said in a speech introducing a debate on the
Board's report The Church School of the Future.
"Eighty-one per cent of C of E primary schools and 76 per cent
of our secondary schools are rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by
OFSTED - above the average for non-C of E schools by three per cent
and four per cent."
But he warned that in "the new policy landscape of education . .
. with a reduced role for local authorities, the responsibility for
school effectiveness is shifting to those who provide schools -
that's us. . . If a school has 'Church of England' over the door,
then the Church of England, through the Diocesan Board of Education
(DBE), will be increasingly held accountable for the quality of
provision within the school."
He said that central to C of E schools' support for children "is
to support them as they develop spiritually as well as academically
and emotionally. In order to do that, it's vitally important that
they're equipped to be able to engage with religious faith and
The Revd Mark Steadman (Southwark) said that
church schools were "an integral part of the mission and ministry
of the diocese". They "work in areas of incredible diversity of
social background, ethnicity, opportunity, and attainment". They
were "places of community that seek to support and nurture some of
the most vulnerable children in society". In Southwark, the Bishop
had issued a call to mission not just to parishes, but to schools,
and the effect had been "amazing".
Susan Witts (Blackburn) said that some of the
clergy had told her that training for work in schools had not been
adequate. She said: "Families are seeking community, and it's what
we do well in church. . . We need to meet needs of families
better." In the diocese, there were nine high-school chaplains; and
the first primary-school chaplain would be appointed in January,
and there were many child-friendly churches. Her "little concern"
was about where "informal education work" with chaplains and
volunteers would sit within the changes made at a national
The Revd Dr Roger Walton (Methodist Church)
welcomed the report, but was "a little disappointed that there is
no mention of the growing ecumenical partnerships". In recent
years, the Methodist Church had indicated a desire to be involved
in sponsorship of schools, and to "enter into this not in
competition, but in partnership". Such ecumenism was increasingly
represented on diocesan boards.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian
Henderson, called for more RE teachers to be professing Christians.
He said: "How have we got to the place where the state of RE
teaching is so depressing? . . I believe that key to ensuring good
RE is a praying, Christian teacher." He noted that nine in ten
schools in Blackburn had a full-time Christian youth-worker. "Part
of our strategy must be to support those with a vocation for
teaching, and to encourage Christians to consider the calling to
Rachel Beck (Lincoln) praised the Board of
Education's document A DBE for the Future, and encouraged
all diocesan boards to use it for self-evaluation. "This document
is an extremely useful tool. . . It led to clear and constructive
feedback for the future development of our DBE." She highlighted
the first "mark": "There is a clear and compelling statement of why
the diocese is involved in education that any person in the
structure can understand and recite." The document's evaluation
framework offered a "clear path . . . to recommit to the vision
behind its involvement in education. It's not just another tick
box, or filling-in-forms process."
The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, moved
an amendment, calling for a strengthening of the links between
parishes and church schools. The original motion "doesn't give us a
great deal of help about how we can use the opportunities that
church schools provide more effectively for the mission of the
Church, and in particular the contribution that our church schools
can make to spiritual and numerical growth". The motion "omits
parishes from doing anything, and it seems to me that this is the
key place that difference is likely to be made".
When he visits church schools, he said that he asks for a
20-minute appointment with the head teacher, chair of governors,
and the local vicar to ask how we can work better together. "Quite
often, the head or vicar have ideas, but have never taken the
opportunity to discuss it."
The Bishop of Oxford said that he was "very happy to accept . .
. the helpful addition".
The Chairman of the House of Laity, Dr Philip
Giddings (Oxford), said that he was fully in support of the Bishop
of St Albans's amendment, but said it was "unhelpful" that the word
"church" had been included. "The strength of the main motion is
that we should work with church schools and community schools," he
said. "This is especially essential in the secondary sector, where
we have so few church schools."
The same point was made by the Revd Stephen
Pratt (Lichfield), who said that none of the six schools
in his parish was a church school, but "we are in all but one of
them in a major way." One of the schools was on the forced-academy
list, and was being converted to a cooperative. It had been
suggested that the church - not the diocese, but the local church -
should become part of the Trust. He said that under the new school
structures, "the lines are going to get blurred" about whether
places were church schools.
Peter Bruinvels (Guildford) spoke of ways in
which churches and schools could support each other; and said that
the diocese of Guildford had ten non-church schools now affiliated
The amendment was carried overwhelmingly.
Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) said that full
clergy engagement in schools was "time-consuming". She was
"heartened by the suggestion that we need schools teams to help and
the involvement of the church community". As a foundation governor,
she wanted to say that these, too, required training. She also
warned that Christian children were "at the sharp end". Every child
in her Sunday school had told her that he or she had been bullied
for being a Christian.
The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Revd Richard
Blackburn (Northern Suffragans), warned that many clergy were
having to service an increasing number of schools: "Our engagement
needs to go further." He welcomed the recommendations for
developing church schools' partnerships. The reduced capacity of
many local authorities meant that "our increasing involvement
through direct action or as broker is now expected". He warned that
resourcing education teams would come at a cost; this would be a
challenge in existing pay structures, but the Church must "rise to
The Revd Dr Joanna Spreadbury
(St Albans) spoke as a parish priest working with a local school.
It had been realised that it would be beneficial for both if it
became a church school. This had been "relatively straightforward":
the process was "surprisingly easy".
Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) highlighted the
need to train lay and ordained people for "intentional evangelism
in the school setting", and to "fulfil the aspiration in Going
for Growth that every child should have the opportunity of a
life-transforming encounter with Jesus Christ".
Canon Richard Mitchell (Gloucester) told the
Synod that education was changing at great speed, and the Church
needed to keep up. His diocese had had to delve into its reserves
to set up its academy trust, but he said that he hoped, in time,
the trust would be able fund itself. "But I'm aware not all
dioceses in the Church will be able to do that," he said. He also
asked: "Are church schools still the jewel in the crown of the
Church? It's important we enhance and support our DBE staff."
Canon Michael Parsons (Gloucester) said that
clergy training was vital to work in schools. "Clergy and lay
ministers need to be centrally resourced in their involvement in
schools." This should be part of continuing ministerial
development, as "a regular part of their training".
Andrea Minichiello Williams (Chichester) argued
that the Church should take a more robust stance in proclaiming
Jesus in schools, as they were "the place to start intentional
evangelism". She urged Christians to teach a Christian position on
issues such as marriage, or science and creation. She also
expressed concern that Bishop Pritchard had invited the gay-rights
charity Stonewall to be involved in the Church's work to combat
The motion was clearly carried:
That this Synod, affirming the crucial importance of the
Church of England's engagement with schools for its contribution to
the common good and to its spiritual and numerical growth:
(a) urge dioceses, in the light of A DBE for the
Future, to complete the self-evaluation framework within twelve
months and thereby review their support for schools;
(b) invite dioceses to draw up plans for promoting the
widest possible use of the new Christianity Project materials in
both church and other schools;
(c) request the Ministry Council to consider and report to
the Synod in 2014 how training for lay and ordained ministers can
include more school-related experience;
(d) encourage parishes to identify and implement good
practice to strengthen links between Church schools and parishes;
(e) invite the Archbishops' Council to report to the Synod
by February 2015 the outcome of its discussions with the National
Society on the national governance proposals made by the Chadwick