THE school-improvement agenda is at the heart of the Department
for Education's education policy, and is transforming the way
diocesan boards of education (DBEs) interface with their
OFSTED data at the end of June last year rated Church of England
schools, primary and secondary, as at least three per cent better
than all community schools on overall effectiveness, and the
quality of teaching and pupil achievement. No school can become
complacent, however, and the OFSTED inspection framework and
criteria change frequently.
If standards drop, and a school goes into decline, a diocese has
the power to intervene. In the case of church schools (academy or
maintained), the DBE and other church bodies must ensure the
appointment of appropriate and competent foundation governors.
These governors will require training, and all dioceses must
ensure that good appointments are made, and put in place mechanisms
to hold their governors to account. DBEs should regularly review
the activity and competence of governing bodies.
The governors should set the strategic vision for the school,
and hold the head teacher to account for the conduct and standards
of the school, besides ensuring that financial resources are well
A SCHOOL or academy with a designated religious character is
required to have its denominational RE and worship inspected by the
Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS), or
other relevant inspection procedure. Inspection can lead to a
requirement for actions of various kinds, and the DBE should ensure
that these are followed through.
A denominational inspection may also throw up issues, in respect
of an academy, that would lead the DBE to seek to persuade the
Secretary of State to use his warning and intervention powers. This
may be used if an academy refuses to conduct regular acts of
worship of a broadly Church of England character.
In voluntary aided and foundation-majority schools, foundation
governors must outnumber all other governors by two. This majority
can be greater in church-majority academies. The appointing bodies
must make sure that they appoint the best candidates. If these turn
out to be the wrong people, they must be removed, and new governors
appointed in their place. Dioceses have the power to do this, and
should use it more often than they have in the past.
If the actual appointing body (for example, a PCC) will not act,
then the Bishop or Archdeacon can be invited to push for action. If
the problem lies, in part, with a member of the clergy, then the
Bishop or Archdeacon might be brought into play, using the Clergy
Discipline Measure, and the competency procedures for clergy under
The power of the Archdeacon to propose removal of a member of
the clergy, and replacement by a nominee may be used.
IN VOLUNTARY controlled and foundation-minority schools (and
foundation-minority academies), this is more complicated, because
the instrument of government does not give dioceses power to
appoint all or most foundation governors. The actions above should
still be taken, however, even if this means also challenging the
non-church governors or directors.
In academies, governors can be removed by those who appointed
them. Indeed, in foundation-minority academies, the diocesan member
of the academy company (usually the DBE or its umbrella trust) can
press for (though not compel) changes of non-church as well as
church governors, and should not hesitate to do so if problems are
DBEs should expect all church academies to hold an annual
general meeting, and for the academy-trust company members to be
aware of their powers to call for general meetings, to hold the
governors to account, and to remove or replace them as
AGMs should include relevant reports so that the members can be
sure that governors are aware of, and are addressing, any matters
that give cause for concern.
Howard Dellar is head of the ecclesiastical, education, and
charities department at Lee Bolton Monier-Williams, and Secretary
of the Ecclesiastical Law Society