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Church Schools Review Group issues consultation report

The Church Schools Review Group, chaired by Lord Dearing, today issues its Consultation Report on the way the Church of England should shape the future of its 4,700 schools. The Report provides comment on some 57 provisional recommendations and on other issues.

Partnership is the theme of the Consultation Report. It re-affirms the Church of England's historic partnership with government and local education authorities in the provision of education for some 940,000 children and young people. It welcomes an ecumenical approach.

The Report develops the case, as expressed in the Group's interim report to the Archbishops' Council in July, to increase the number of Church schools in both the primary and the secondary sectors. The Report gives a special emphasis, in recommending an expansion of schools provision, to the Church's mission to serve those in areas of economic and social deprivation. It says that the Church should have the needs of these children in mind in developing additional schools.

Proposing 100 additional secondary schools, to include Fresh Starts, City Academies and new schools on green and brown field sites, the Report brings out the big discrepancies in the provision of primary schools, and invites dioceses to reassess their provision. In this, the Report makes clear that only one in five of the 790,000 children currently educated in Church
of England maintained primary schools can continue their education in a Church of England secondary school.

The Report stresses the need for the Church to encourage vocations to teach. It challenges the Church at all levels to promote teaching as an important expression of Christian ministry. In particular, it calls on the Church to develop all those with potential to be its headteachers for the future. It invites the Church to engage in a dialogue with Government to achieve a reduction in the administrative workload on headteachers, especially of small schools. It invites the Church to find new ways of encouraging the recruitment of teachers from minority ethnic groups.

The Report sees Church schools at the centre of the Church's ministry. Because of this, it argues for more extensive training to be given to prepare clergy for their ministry in, and through, schools. The Report sees an enhanced role for the Church Colleges of Higher Education in developing Christian teachers at all stages in their professional development, and as a resource for the Church to call upon in the training of clergy and governors for their role in relation to Church schools.

Church schools and colleges must be distinctively Christian institutions, the Report states. For any new Church schools, the Report argues, there should be a core of Christian pupils but these schools should aim to serve their local communities in all their diversity. The Report notes the current popularity of Church schools. Parents welcome their explicit recognition of Christian values within the life of the school as well as the good reputation many of them have earned as successful schools in the broadest sense of the education they offer.

The Group has asked for responses to its draft recommendations by 14 February 2001, and aims to publish its final report in the summer of 2001.

Ron Dearing comments,

'The Church has placed its schools at the centre of its mission to the nation. We believe it is right to do so because Church schools reach out to nearly a million young people and families every day of the week Parental demand shows the need for more Church schools and this is a success story for the Church. We have therefore recommended an increase in provision - to help in reducing the large imbalance between primary and secondary provision but also as a means of engaging with society in a distinctive and positive way through the school life we can offer. It was in the service of those who had least in life that the Church made its big impact on education in the nineteenth century. We want the Church to serve all classes, but especially in planning for additional schools to renew its special mission to the areas of great social and economic need.

'In all this, the long-term provision of Christian teachers is a crucial issue for the Church, and we invite the Church to encourage Christians, young and old, to see teaching as an important ministry in its own right.'

Background Notes

The Church Schools Review Group was established by the Archbishops' Council in response to the November 1998 General Synod Report, Church of England Schools in the New Millennium. The Synod passed a resolution recognising, nem con, that Church schools stand at the centre of the Church's mission to the nation. The resolution addressed parishes, dioceses and the Archbishops' Council.

The current Review is the first major reassessment of Church schools since the publication of the Durham Report into Religious Education (The Fourth R), published in 1970.

A list of the Group's members and its terms of reference are attached.

The Church Schools Review Group consultation paper is published by the Archbishops' Council (1.50) and is available from (mail order available) Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel 020-7898 1300, fax 020-7898 1305.

MEMBERSHIP
Lord Dearing CB (Chairman)
Mrs Linda Borthwick - Director of Education, Southwark Diocesan Board of Education
Mr Peter Crook - Director of the Lichfield Foundation and Deputy Director of the Midlands
Leadership Centre
The Reverend Peter Hill - Vicar of Calverton, Diocese of Southwell
Dr John Rea - Principal of the College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth
Mrs Christine Whatford - Director of Education, London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
Mrs Julie Wilks - Head of Archbishop Runcie CE VA First School, Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams - Archbishop of Wales
Assessors
The Most Revd Vincent Nichols - Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham
Professor Arthur Pollard - Emeritus Professor of English, Hull University; Member of the Board of Education and Chairman of the Schools Committee

TERMS OF REFERENCE
To review the achievements of Church of England Schools and to make proposals for their future development.
Believing that Church schools stand at the centre of the Church's mission to the nation: to identify what currently contributes to the success and effectiveness of Church schools; and to examine the case for strengthening their distinctiveness and the means by which this might be achieved. [Effectiveness)]
To undertake a clear assessment of the need and opportunities to increase the number of all Church schools, but in particular at the secondary phase, and how this might be achieved. [Strategic Development]
To develop strategies for increasing vocations to teach; and to review the particular and distinctive role of the Church Colleges in the professional formation of Christian teachers and head teachers ( within both Church Schools and the education system generally). [Vocation]
To make recommendations concerning these three areas.