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Bishop seeks meeting after débâcle

21 September 2012

SENIOR Church of England edu­cation­ists, including the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, chairman of the Board of Education, and the Chief Education Officer, the Revd Jan Ainsworth, are seeking an early meeting with the new team at the Department for Education after this month's min­isterial reshuffle.

"We hope to explore the way in which the C of E's statutory role in education can be developed in the emerging landscape," Mrs Ainsworth said this week.

Any discussion will almost cer­tainly include growth in the numbers of C of E academies and free schools. Ministers are said to be disappointed by a perceived lack of enthusiasm for academy status among church schools, and, it has been alleged, direct approaches have been made to bishops in tardy dioceses. But reform of the exam­ination system at 16-plus is also likely to be high on the agenda, given the predicted threat that the changes pose to the status of religious education.

The Church is also concerned about the effect of the new examina­tions on the most vulnerable chil­dren, many in Anglican secondary schools serving poor communities. Bishop Pritchard raised the issue in a recent letter to the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, seeking reassurance that any changes would "enable students from poorer backgrounds to continue to flourish".

The letter also referred to "the great distress to some of our most vulner­able pupils" caused by the "débâcle" over the adjustment in grade boundaries in the marking of this year's GCSE English Language papers. "This is a considerable af-front to natural justice, and efforts to raise the aspirations of pupils from less favoured backgrounds were not made any easier," the Bishop wrote

In a comment on the effect of stiffer marking, Mrs Ainsworth said that the shift in the English Language C/D boundary was exceptional. It had disproportionately affected the chil­dren who had to overcome the great­est difficulty in reaching the top grades ( News, 31 August).

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