Department of Education backs funding of curacy training as an apprenticeship  

28 April 2017

Meeting targets: Dame Caroline Spelman speaking in the House of Commons, last week

Meeting targets: Dame Caroline Spelman speaking in the House of Commons, last week

THE C of E’s bid to use the new ap­­pren­­ticeship tax to fund curacy train­­ing has moved a step closer to reality after the proposal was ap­­proved by the Government.

The Department of Education has given its backing in principle to the idea of using the funds from the apprenticeship levy, which was an­­nounced in 2015 and came into force this month, in curacy training.

Now, the Church is consulting with dioceses and other partners to gauge support for the scheme. If the consultation is successful, the pro­ject could begin in 12 months’ time.

A spokesman for the C of E said: “We are currently consult­ing with various stakeholders, on an ecumen­ical basis, regarding what form the training would take.”

The Government has told the Church that it would need to enter into part­nerships with other de­­nom­­inations to use the funds for the train­ing of curates. Normally, at least ten employers must be in­­volved for a scheme to qualify, although offi­cials have recognised that Churches are a special case.

All employers with a wage bill of more than £3 million must start paying the new tax, a threshold that does not include most dio­ceses and other church bodies, but does in­­clude the Church Commis­sioners and other national church in­­stitu­tions that run the central stipend system.

The Second Church Estates Com­missioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP, told the House of Commons last week that the Church viewed the apprenticeship levy funds as one way of trying to meet its new target, under Renewal and Reform, of in­­creasing ordinations by 50 per cent.

“Quite simply, we need to make it easier for people who feel the call to enter ministry to do so more flex­ibly,” Dame Caroline said. “The Church offers not only a three-year residential course to become an or­­dained minister, but part-time peri­patetic provision. . .

“Resources will be available to the Church for people to learn on the job. That should make it a whole lot easier for people to enter ministry.”

If the scheme goes ahead, the new funds would not be used to cover curates’ stipends, but to fund ad­­ditional training. Other church workers in training, such as youth pastors or administrative staff, could also be funded through the levy, work­­ing in partnership with other Churches.

The Commissioners do not en­­visage apprenticeships as be­­coming the standard way for curacy training to be organised or funded, but hope to set it up as an option for any dioceses that wish to use it. But it is understood, that eventually up to 300 assistant curates could be en­­rolled into the apprenticeship scheme; there are currently about 500.

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