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C of E schools to focus on weakest pupils

09 May 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

CHURCH of England education chiefs are planning a nationwide initiative to tackle the problems facing the most underperforming pupils in C of E schools. The move, which has the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was announced last week by the Church's chief education officer, the Revd Jan Ainsworth.

Speaking in London on May Day, at the annual schools conference organised by LBMW, the National Society's solicitors, Mrs Ainsworth said that a majority of the 4700

C of E schools were rated outstanding or good, and most of their one million pupils thrived.

"But there remain, as much in our schools as in others, particular groups of pupils - white working-class boys, for example - who consistently underperform. It is our duty, consistent with our 200-year-old mission, and with gospel values of justice and equality, that we find ways of helping them to reach their full potential," she said.

She told the conference, attended largely by diocesan education staff, that early plans for the initiative had been made after the Jerusalem Trust had offered Archbishop Welby funding for a significant educational project.

Education teams, she said, would shortly be invited to outline projects to improve attainment in underperforming groups: "We cannot claim we care for all our pupils if we are content to leave some behind."

Mrs Ainsworth, who is due to retire this summer after seven years as the Church's chief education officer, said that the Government's emphasis since 2010 on closing the gap between the highest- and lowest-performing pupils was consistent with the Church's mission to the poor, for whom its schools were originally established.

The reforms had refocused C of E schools on their founding purpose, and reinforced the importance of guarding their distinctive identity. "We must never compromise on our identity. It is the reason we exist," she said.

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