THE Chadwick report, The Church
School of the Future, was the subject of a presentation on
The Bishop of Oxford,
the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who chairs the Board of Education,
suggested that, "for the long-term good of the Church of England,
nothing is of greater importance than how we respond to the
Chadwick report." He sought to get across the "momentousness of the
time we're in". If this opportunity was missed, the Christian story
would "continue to slide out of our cultural memory"; but, by
seizing it, the Church could be "embedding that story in the life
of the nation in a way we haven't been able to do for decades".
After giving a brief history of church
schools, he said that the system whereby two types of church
schools existed (voluntary aided and voluntary controlled) was on
the verge of break-up. Free Schools were being encouraged, and
local authorities, which provided "vital support", were "in
meltdown, starved of money and responsibility".
Other changes were also under way in a
"new, quickly evolving, not entirely understood" landscape. The
Chadwick report addressed many questions emanating from this, and
made 26 recommendations. Church schools were "absolutely and
irrevocably at the heart of our mission". The Church was "in our
schools, not just in our sacred buildings". This "culture change"
must reach into diocesan strategy and budgets, to ensure that
school performance was maintained.
The Bishop warned that "Church schools
are under suspicion or attack in many corners of society," from the
House of Lords to the Accord Coalition. The response must be "not
defensive, but confidently on the front foot". The "spiritual core"
of schools must be in evidence.
Anna Smith (Church of
England Youth Council) suggested that an opportunity to consult and
hear the voice of pupils in academies and C of E schools had been
missed. How did the Board plan to hear these views, and get them to
help shape future priorities?
(Nottingham & Southwell) said that the Synod was "great" at
"supporting and considering the view of the minority" - those
children who attended church schools. But it must remember the 90
per cent: those who did not attend church schools. He urged the
Bishop to restate his commitment to "all" children and young
(Southwark) asked if members of the review committee would give
serious consideration to including a question on school application
forms about whether a person was "a member or active supporter of
the British National Party, or any organisation whose
constitution's policies . . . are incompatible with the Church of
England's commitment to promoting racial equality".
The Bishop of
Grimsby, the Rt Revd David Rossdale (Lincoln), drew
attention to "the ministry of governors within the life of the
school". The Church should be encouraged "to understand its
involvement with church schools as a real function of ministry
available to all within the Church".
Canon Tony Walker
(Southwell & Nottingham) mentioned clergy training. None of the
interviews on which most of the report was based came "from
ordinary parish clergy or area rural deans . . . but only from
'senior clergy'". Training incumbents and area deans could bring
together curates "to discuss specific problems facing small, mainly
The Chief Education Officer of
the Church of England and General Secretary of the National Society
and the Board of Education, the Revd Jan Ainsworth,
sharing responsibility for answering questions with Bishop
Pritchard, said that recommendations about clergy training were "in
a sense the tip of the iceberg". A "great sense of urgency" had
come through from the respondents "that if you got them early
enough, you could encourage clergy to take on that full and wide
role in relation to schools".
(Chester) asked why the report was called Church Schools of the
Future when it was mainly about structures rather than
schools. She also thought it was "a little ambitious" to recommend
changes taking place in two years.
Bishop Pritchard said that the
children and their schools could be helped by getting the
structures right; and it was necessary to look at the Church's
structures in light of Michael Gove's reforms. The Bishop said the
two-year timetable related to the implementation stage; the work
would carry on beyond then.
(Manchester) asked whether the structural changes would ensure that
all schools could be supported - particularly those serving
children whose success was "limited by their socio-economic
Bishop Pritchard said that there were
different models of supporting schools in needy areas, including
The Bishop of Ely,
the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, said that, with multi-church benefices,
clergy could find themselves looking after four or five church
schools as well as community schools. He suggested that the clergy
could be encouraged to give up their responsibility as governors
"in order to be effective as chaplains and priests, and not bear
the governor's load".