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Bishop Conway promises emphasis on school improvement

22 May 2015


Drawing a crowd: pupils help cut the ribbon as the Archbishop of York opens and blesses the news expansion buildings at St Francis of Assisi C of E primary school, Ingleby Barwick, in March 

Drawing a crowd: pupils help cut the ribbon as the Archbishop of York opens and blesses the news expansion buildings at St Francis of Assisi C...

THE steady growth in the number of Church of England school places over the past decade is set to continue, the Church's parliamentary spokesman on education, the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, said this month.

Bishop Conway, who holds the Church's education brief in the House of Lords, told an education conference in London: "We want more C of E schools, not fewer." He rejected the term "faith schools", now used to describe all schools with a religious designation.

"Our schools are not faith schools, they are church schools, run for all. They are not exclusive, but inclusive. We are not interested in producing schools to reinforce our identity, but our schools succeed where there is a distinctive Christian ethos," he said.

The expansion of C of E places signalled by the seminal 2001 Dearing report has significantly increased over the past decade, in response to the growing need for school places. After the Dearing report, C of E provision increased by 35,000 places. The growth has come about through both the development of new schools and the expansion of existing schools.

Most new church schools would be built in areas of greatest need, in line with the National Society's founding mission of education for the poor, Bishop Conway said. He also promised an emphasis on school improvement: the Church wanted at least 90 per cent of its schools rated as good or outstanding.

Many church schools were oversubscribed, Bishop Conway said: "The solution is not to focus all our energy on the admissions process, but to invest more time building and running more outstanding schools."

The keynote address was given by Lady Morris of Yardley, who as Estelle Morris was Secretary of State for Education, and is now a Labour peer.

Canon David Whittington, formerly the Church's schools development officer, warned the conference of an apparent ministerial disregard for the legal framework connected with church schools, particularly as it applied to land held on trust.

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