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Spelman: Education Bill must recognise importance of dioceses

26 June 2015

ARCHBISHOP OF YORK

Down tools: pupils at Archbishop of York C of E junior school, Bishopthorpe finish the Key Stage 2 Award do-it-yourself challenge, in June 2013 

Down tools: pupils at Archbishop of York C of E junior school, Bishopthorpe finish the Key Stage 2 Award do-it-yourself challenge, in June 201...

THE new Education Bill should include clear recognition of the position of dioceses in relation to Church of England schools, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Caroline Spelman, said this week.

Mrs Spelman, the MP for Meriden, was speaking during the Second Reading of the Bill that would increase the Secretary of State's powers to require schools to become academies.

If the Bill becomes law, the Education Secretary will be able to force "academisation" on so-called "coasting" schools, in addition to those in special measures. Only 20 per cent of the 4700 C of E schools fall into this category, but, Mrs Spelman said, there was concern in the Church that, where intervention was considered, the church ethos would be protected.

Regional schools commissioners who would be able to require a school to become an academy might have a limited understanding of the position of dioceses in relation to church schools, she said.

It was also important that the Church was represented on the interim boards that formed to oversee church schools in special measures.

The Church's capacity was maintained through a strategic approach rather than on a school-by-school basis, and the coherence of the church family of schools enabled its significant contribution to education.

"I therefore seek assurances from the Secretary of State that the Bill and the associated regulations and guidance explicitly recognise the duties of the dioceses and trustees who have to preserve the Church of England character of their schools. . . I hope the Government will continue to work with the Church of England and the Catholic Church to ensure that the Bill and any related regulations and guidance meet these concerns," she said.

The Bill is now in its Commons committee stage, scheduled to end on 14 July. It is likely to go to the House of Lords after the Parliamentary recess and become law in October.

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