Schools' values test is too narrow, C of E says

14 November 2014

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Flying the flag: the Palace of Westminster

Flying the flag: the Palace of Westminster

THE National Society's submission to the government consultation on the proposed "new independent schools standards" - more commonly known as "British values" - says that they are too narrowly focused. It warns, moreover, of the danger that "the British-values test could be regarded as an assessment of whether someone is 'safe' or 'loyal'. This would be a negative and divisive approach."

The proposed values, which the Government wants to include in the inspections of the new class of independently governed schools - including Free Schools and academies - and the recent proliferation of small, low-fee religious schools, were drawn up in the wake of the Trojan-horse inquiries in Birmingham earlier this year.

The values listed in the consultation are not exclusively British, however, and do not include important aspects of British life, including "'loving your neighbour', the importance of dissent, and a commitment to the common good", the submission says.

Representing the views of Boards of Education covering 40 English dioceses, the submission calls for "a national conversation about the shared values which should form the basis of our education system".

It also expresses concern that British values should emanate from a broad public conversation, and not from the Secretary of State: "By assuming the power to decide what reasonable or unreasonable behaviour is in our education system, the Secretary of State would be taking very wide powers for herself . . . and closing down the broader public debate across communities and schools themselves."

Addressing a conference in Birmingham last week for heads of the diocese's C of E schools, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that much commentary around the Trojan-horse allegations made it appear that schools with a religious character were part of the problem.

"That's simply not true," Archbishop Welby said. "The fact seems to need a lot of repeating: no church schools or faith-based schools were caught up in Trojan horse. We are the solution, not the problem."

He also emphasised the importance of good RE in creating religious literacy. Praising the Government for its renewed commitment to RE, he said: "We want to see that commitment translated into urgent action. Religious illiteracy struggles to cope with the blandishments of extremism."

 

THE Church of England's universities appear to be maintaining their position as a significant educator of primary school teachers in England, the latest government allocations of training places suggest.

They have been awarded more than one third of undergraduate places, and 18 per cent of one-year university-based postgraduate places planned for 2015. Including their part in providing additional teaching for school-based trainees, C of E universities will be responsible for 22 per cent of all new primary teachers.

With the five per cent of places given to Roman Catholic institutions, the Cathedrals Group's overall allocation of primary initial teacher-training rises to 28 per cent.

The Anglican allocations match closely C of E school provision - about one in four of all primary schools is C of E, said the Revd Dr John Gay, research fellow at the University of Oxford's Department of Education, who analysed the figures.

Given that, in the earlier allocation of PGCE places for secondary RE teachers, the Cathedral Group's share fell from 50 per cent to 43 per cent, the latest round of church-university allocations seems to fall short of the imprecise denominational share of training places which the Government agreed to retain when a raft of teacher-training colleges - several of which were historic Anglican, RC, and Free Church foundations - were closed or amalgamated with secular institutions in the 1970s.

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