THE biggest reshaping of the schools system for 50 years had left the 1944 Education Act threadbare, and would require a renegotiation of the Church-state contract in education, the Archbishop of Canterbury said last week.
But “the atomisation” of education, and the diminished part played by local authorities could leave the Church of England as the largest single provider of schools in England, he told members of the 200-strong Anglican Academy and Secondary School Heads (AASSH) association at its annual conference in London.
As more schools took on the responsibilities of independence, with less support from local authorities, there was a greater need for “an intelligent sharing of resources”, including moral and spiritual resources and a “common purpose”, Dr Williams said. Schools needed to draw support from the type of networks already provided by C of E structures; they also needed to be a resource for their local communities.
He also called for a “robust defence” of religious education and collective worship. “To defend the position of religious studies and religious education is not to ask for privileges. It’s simply to ask that we do not have unfair disadvantages landed on us. The case needs to be made, and made forcefully.”
Referring to the riots in English cities last month, Dr Williams quoted the comment made by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, in the House of Lords, that: “This seems a very odd moment to be thinning out or dumbing-down the religious and ethical content of the school curricula.”
Underlining the value of collective worship, Dr Williams said: “If a school is to be an intelligent community, it will always need space to reflect; time to stop, to consider its priorities, to extend its horizons. That is what collective worship is about.”
The chairman of AASSH and head of Bishop Luffa School, Chichester, Nick Taunt, said that Dr Williams had demonstrated the way in which church schools were embedded in their communities. There was a real thirst among parents for the spiritual values they offered, he said.