C of E to pay Living Wage in schools

19 September 2014

Fulham Boys School, a parent-led Church of England free school in west London, opened almost on schedule this week, two months after the school's plans for a permanent site collapsed when funding was refused (News, 11 July)

Fulham Boys School, a parent-led Church of England free school in west London, opened almost on schedule this week, two months after the school's plans for a permanent site collapsed when funding was refused (News, 11 July)

ALL Church of England schools will become accredited Living Wage employers under a plan announced by the National Society and the trade union Unison on Monday.

Unison will produce a step-by-step guide to ensure that all employees, including support staff, of church schools are paid the Living Wage, which is currently £7.65 an hour, or £8.80 in London. They will then help schools become officially accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, who recently chaired the Living Wage Commission examining the future of the initiative, said that it was an excellent scheme. "Church of England schools were set up more than 200 years ago to serve the poor and marginalised, and they have always been committed to treating staff and pupils fairly. This new agreement with Unison will reward schools with Living Wage accreditation for their commitment to treating staff fairly."

An investigation by the Church Times in June found that every diocese that responded to queries was already paying its staff the Living Wage, as were Lambeth Palace, Church House, and Bishopthorpe (News, 27 June). A spokesman for the C of E, however, declined to comment at the time on whether the Living Wage would be expanded beyond dioceses and national church institutions, into schools and parishes.

Campaigners said that, although the Church's efforts were encouraging, to make a significant difference the Living Wage needed to be rolled out to the hundreds of smaller C of E employers, including schools.

The National Society said that - inspired by a General Synod motion in 2012 which praised the Living Wage as a means to lift people out of poverty - a commitment has now been made that all 4700 church schools will become accredited Living Wage employers.

Thirty-six schools across the country are currently accredited with the Living Wage Foundation, including six Roman Catholic schools, an academy sponsored by the London Diocesan Board for Schools, and one C of E primary school.

Rhys Moore, from the Living Wage Foundation, said: "We are delighted with the great support of Christian organisations in leading by example when calling for the Living Wage. The recent strong message from the Archbishop of York . . . makes a great difference."

The general secretary of Unison, Dave Prentis, said: "Times are tough, and low-paid workers are struggling. . . Schools and heads are under a lot of pressure, and that is why Unison wants to make it easier for them to win Living Wage accreditation by producing a step-by-step guide."

The general secretary of the National Society, the Revd Nigel Genders, said: "In signing up to this commitment, schools are taking a clear stand against poverty, and setting a very public example for their pupils about how people should be treated."

Nigel Genders interview 

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