Praise of Church Schools challenged

July 10, 2012

Speaking at a presentation at a meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod last night on the Church’s recently published report ‘Church School of the Future, its most prominent statement on its involvement in education for many years, The Rt Revd John Pritchard set out how Church Schools could sustain the Church’s long term well-being.

He observed that ‘Nationally we [the Church] have a million parishioners every day in our schools. And these schools have a whole hinterland of families, well disposed towards the Church of course, in most cases …  We don’t have to bemoan the fact that our Sunday school is struggling if there are 300 children at the local Church school.’

Church authorities were working to overhaul the curriculum in Church Schools so that Church teaching pervaded what was taught, noting that ‘We’re working on a new scheme for teaching Christianity in our schools, because actually we’ve come under a lot of criticism for that. And on what a curriculum would look like that truly reflected the Christian faith right the way through its life, not just in RE and collective worship.’

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, said ‘successful schools are to be welcomed, but their prime purpose, especially if state funded, should be education, not doctrinal mission. We need to resolve how faith schools can serve not just themselves, but also the wider community. The problem of religious discrimination in the admission of pupils still needs to be addressed.’

A few hours before the presentation to Synod members the Accord Coalition held a fringe event of its own at the meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod in York yesterday. Accord’s event asked ‘Who are Church Schools for; serving ourselves or our neighbours?’. Joining the Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, on the panel of speakers were The Reverend Stephen Terry, Rector of the Parish of Aldrington in Hove, and Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian think tank and on-line news service Ekklesia.

The Rev Stephen Terry with Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain.

The Reverend Stephen Terry told the meeting that whereas he once felt a ’lonely voice’, he now considered his concerns at the direction that some Church Schools were heading to be ’part of the mainstream’. Drawing upon his direct experience, he noted how some Church Schools had become more aggressive in their admissions policy in order to increase attendance at local Churches. He argued that Church Schools should not just teach values, but demonstrate them through how they operated and stated that he found it ’unchristian’ if they sought to exclude those of different beliefs from their local community.

Mr Simon Barrow told the meeting that he found much of the debate in the media around faith schools unhelpful, as it often explored whether they should exist or not. Instead he hoped that attention would focus on how schools operate in practice.

Mr Barrow grounded many of his views on his religious beliefs. He praised Church Schools for embracing social and political issues, such as fair trade. However, he noted that the sector fell down when it came to educating some of the most vulnerable in society, which he believed should be a particular focus for schools with a Christian ethos. He noted evidence that showed that Church Schools admitted fewer than the national average of pupils with special education needs and in receipt of free school meals, and that homophobic bullying was a greater problem than in the non-faith sector.

Mr Barrow argued that Church Schools should not select on religious grounds, as they erected boundaries between people not recognised by God. He also criticised admission arrangements that gave preference to those who engaged in regular Church attendance, as they provided an incentive for parents who wanted to get their child into a well performing Church School to be insincere about their beliefs.



A story on The Rt Revd John Pritchard’s speech can be read in today’s Telegraph here.

2 Responses to Praise of Church Schools challenged

  1. Emerson on May 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    I really liked the material, the author thanks a lot. I will often read your site …

  2. Jarrett on December 8, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Since I started in our cucrhh in January I’ve learned a lot about how cucrhh services are structured. The cucrhh I’m at would be described as traditional in terms of hymns / service structure (prayer / hymn / announcements / hymn / sermon / hymn / breaking of bread service.) This seemed to me to have been the case for many years.However what I have learned is that this structure appeals to many people, including those new to cucrhh as it is regular without being predictable, and they know what’s going to happen. In terms of the traditional nature of our praise etc, we are working with what we have, rather than grafting in new approaches from outside. The members of our cucrhh would welcome new approaches/methods within the cucrhh as long as the message of the Gospel wasn’t diluted / distracted from as can be the case in new approaches of cucrhh. I’d also like this to be organic as new people with creative gifts join the cucrhh and are encouraged to express them to the glory of God.We sit / we stand / we pray / we preach / we laugh / we cry / we sing / we’re quiet / we chat / we listen I think without being prescriptive that’s what the cucrhh is supposed to do!We’re structured enough to enable people to not feel out of place but we’re flexible enough to adapt the service depending on what’s happening That’s us I’m not saying it’s right or wrong or it couldn’t be amended slightly but, it’s just us.

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