NEW statistics from the Church of England's Education Division
suggest that the intake of the Church's 4664 schools is broadly
similar to that of non-church schools. One in four pupils at a C of
E secondary school is from an ethnic-minority background, and 15
per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals - a key
poverty indicator - the same proportion as in non-church
The figures contradict persistent claims by secularist
organisations that church-school admissions are skewed to favour
middle-class families. Writing in The Daily Telegraph on
Tuesday, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who
chairs the Board of Education, criticised "the distorted lens of
secularist groups who seek to claim that church schools effectively
select by the back door".
These allegations were resurrected last week when the Archbishop
of Canterbury remarked during an interview with The Times,
focusing on poverty, that "there's a steady move away from
faith-based entry tests." He said: "It is not necessary to select
to get a really good school." A subsequent statement from Lambeth
Palace emphasised that Archbishop Welby fully supported the right
of schools to set their own admissions criteria, including those
based on faith.
In fact, the admissions policies of all church schools - aided
or controlled - comply with Department for Education regulations,
and although many include church attendance as a qualification for
places, only about 11 very oversubscribed secondary schools bring
this criterion into play.
The C of E's chief education officer, the Revd Jan Ainsworth,
said: "We have always maintained that C of E schools serve a wide
range of pupils, and we now have statistical evidence that this is
the case. Of course, the data represents an average, and varies
around the country, and there may be cases where a school seems
less inclusive. But the data demonstrates conclusively that these
cases are the exception rather than the norm."
The latest statistics also confirm that C of E schools are
effective: 81 per cent of its primaries and 76 per cent of its
secondaries were rated by OFSTED as "outstanding" or "good", both
slightly higher (three per cent and four per cent respectively)
than the national average. The Church's own inspections of its
schools' spiritual and pastoral effectiveness rated more than nine
out of ten as good or outstanding.
Reporting the findings to the General Synod this week, Bishop
Pritchard described church schools as a "national treasure", which
the Government should allow to expand to meet parental demand and
the urgent need for extra places.
School cap. The Roman Catholic Church in
England and Wales has ruled out opening any new schools until
government rules that cap the number of RC pupils in new schools at
50 per cent are changed, writes Tim Wyatt.
A statement from the Bishops' Conference this month said: "The
imposition of a 50-per-cent cap on the control of admissions is not
a secure basis for the provision of a Catholic school and [we urge]
dioceses to resist any pressure to establish a school on that
basis." The statement said that it would press the Government to
modify the policy so that Catholics no longer face a
Department for Education rules require new schools to be either
a free school or an academy, and, unlike existing schools, these
types of school cannot provide more than half their places
exclusively to one faith group.