THE Church's special relationship with the Government over
schools - in place for 70 years since the 1944 settlement - is
dead, the C of E's top education spokesman has said.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, is chairman of
the Board of Education. He told a private conference in London last
week: "The dual system is bust. It is dead. It is not coming
The dual system is the method under which schools have been
provided in a partnership between central Government and the Church
of England and, to a lesser extent, the Roman Catholic Church. The
1944 agreement recognised the Church's unique stake in education,
with its national system of schools dating back to 1811.
The partnership has been under increasing pressure for some
time, first, from the demand from minority faiths for the right to
run their own schools, and, since 2010, from the changing education
landscape mapped out by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove. He
has championed two new types of school, free schools and Mark 2
academies, opening the system to other providers, among them
Worries about the partnership have been growing for some time,
but no one has spoken so forthrightly until now. Bishop Pritchard
chose to speak out at a private education conference in London,
last week, organised by the Board of Education's legal advisers,
Lee Bolton Monier-Williams, and attended by representatives of
diocesan education boards and other educationists.
At the end of last week, the Bishop gave the reason for his
candour: "It was a roomful of educationalists. They knew what I was
talking about. If I'd been addressing a different gathering, I
might have said the dual system had been parked in a cul-de-sac
from which it's not going to return."
The purpose of his straight talking was to focus minds on the C
of E's future role in a multi-system approach to schooling. It was
a role that should be accepted with confidence, he said. Although
the range of providers was growing, with newcomers ranging from
local backers of one-off free schools to professional academy
chains operating nationally, the C of E was ahead of the pack.
Outside the Government, it remained the largest provider of
schools, with just under 5000 schools, including more than 300
academies. "We have the national coverage and a network of
expertise," he said.
But the Gove reforms had significantly expanded the task of
school providers, making them directly responsible for standards.
This responsibility had formerly been shouldered by local
authorities, but these had been deprived of their resources by
As a result, community as well as church schools were seeking
help from dioceses, which were now being seen as a local focus of
support. "We are increasingly sharing expertise through
multi-academy trusts and less formal collaboration projects. Both
might include academies, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled, and
community schools," Bishop Pritchard said.
"The Government will not accept mediocre standards; so we have
to develop a culture of delivery," he said. This meant "tooling
up", recruiting skilled staff on a diocesan or regional basis, a
move that had considerable financial implications.
Here again, Bishop Pritchard spoke aloud what his audience was
thinking: who was going to pay? "We have to convince my fellow
bishops to reconsider the balance between the funds going to
parishes and what is needed for our schools."
On 3 July, Mr Gove will have an opportunity to hear the Church's
view. He has accepted an invitation from the Archbishop of
Canterbury to attend a meeting at Lambeth Palace with bishops from