THE Schools Minister in the House of Lords, Lord Hill, called for an extension to the Church of England’s involvement in academy provision when he addressed a church academy conference at Lambeth Palace on Monday.
“I look forward to seeing more excellent C of E academies opening over the coming months, working in partnership with other schools to raise aspiration and tackle disadvantage in line with the moral purpose of the Church of England’s educational mission,” he said.
Legal documentation, which includes special provisions for church schools converting to academy status, has now been agreed, and would be available on the Department for Education’s website this week, Lord Hill told the conference. He was speaking two days before the Department for Education announced an extension of its academy plans.
The Government, which wants to give more independence to schools, opened up Labour’s original academy programme, which had been largely limited to socially deprived areas, to successful schools, inviting all schools with outstanding OFSTED reports to apply for academy status. This week, it was announced that the scheme is to be extended to all schools, although underperforming schools will be expected to form partnerships with more successful schools.
The C of E has 42 academies, and is currently the largest academy-provider. “Because of them, 45,000 pupils from socially disadvantaged communities now receive better schooling within a framework of Christian values,” said the Church’s chief education officer, the Revd Jan Ainsworth.
Only about 25 “outstanding” C of E schools have so far applied to become academies under the new arrangements; most are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. But the move to academy status is likely to be accelerated by proposals in the education White Paper, expected next week.