C of E schools to expand

08 November 2013

DIOCESE OF PORTSMOUTH

Early days: children at Cornestone C of E primary school, Bader Way, Whitely. The school was formally opened by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, on 22 October 

Early days: children at Cornestone C of E primary school, Bader Way, Whitely. The school was formally opened by the Bishop of Portsmouth, ...

AN EXPANSION of Church of England schools to create thousands of more places is being planned by dioceses across the country. The aim is to meet the urgent need for new school places resulting from the rapid rise in the birth rate. The Governmentexpects to provide half a million new places nationally by 2021, with about 100,000 needed over the next year.

Because ministers want to concentrate new places in schools already graded as "outstanding" or "good", church schools are likely to be targeted for expansion because most fit this criteria.

The head of schools policy at the Church's Board of Education, the Revd Nigel Genders, said: "The Church of England provides around one quarter of all schools nationally and we want to play our part in solving the places crisis."

But diocesan education and buildings officers say that they are hampered by current funding arrangements for expansion, which is channelled through local authorities, some of which want to undertake the work more expensively themselves or impose restrictive conditions which add significantly to the costs. A few, moreover, have proposed contracts that would have involved dioceses or trustees of church land required for school enlargement in unacceptable potential liabilities, they say.

This week they told senior Department for Education officials who addressed a seminar on sites and capital development, held by the Board of Education's legal advisers, Lee Bolton Monier-Williams, that government cash for expansion should go directly to the provider.

Mr Genders, who also took part in the seminar, said later: "C of E dioceses have proved themselves able effectively to deliver efficient and value for money building projects. I am confident that if they are given the funds directly they will provide the buildings neededto meet the Government's objectives."

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