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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 17:39 GMT
Backing for more church secondary schools
classroom scene
There are twice as many Catholic secondary schools
The Church of England has been set a target of forming at least 100 new church secondary schools within five years.

A report from a church committee chaired by Lord Dearing identifies "a major imbalance" in provision between the primary and secondary sectors.

lord dearing
Lord Dearing: "Need to cater for the disadvantaged"
It says widespread state education means the church no longer needs to offer basic education to the poor as it did when it created huge numbers of schools in the 19th Century.

But it does have a role "to offer a spiritual dimension to the lives of young people, within the traditions of the Church of England, in an increasingly secular world."

The report says one immediate problem is the need to develop the careers of sufficient Christian teachers with "the potential and the desire" to become head teachers and deputy heads.

Shortage of places

A quarter of all state primary schools but only 6% of secondary schools are Church of England schools.

The report says there are 150,000 places in church secondary schools - which means that only one in five children moving up from a church primary can be offered a place.

There are big differences between dioceses, with six having no secondary schools at all.

Provision varies from 600 children under 16 per Church of England primary school in one diocese to 6,000 children in another. The average is 2,100.

The under-representation is most marked in the densely populated urban areas in the south east and the industrial north and midlands, and in suburbs.

More primary schools

To average things up would mean doubling or even tripling the number of primary places in some dioceses, the report says.

"We do not consider that to be feasible even as a long-term possibility for those dioceses, but the significant imbalances in primary provision between dioceses should prompt some dioceses to seek an increase."

But the big problem is the complete absence of Church of England - or Church in Wales - secondary schools in some areas.

To get two or three in every diocese would mean the equivalent of 100 extra church secondary schools.

"Even to go half way towards parity of provision with our primary schools, we would need an additional 250 secondary schools.

"We make this observation simply to emphasise the scale of the challenge to improve the current balance of provision."

Quotas

The report recommends that all dioceses concentrate on what can be done within the next five years, then review their targets.

Another aspect of the problem is many applicants for each available place, and the report says it might be necessary to set quotas for children from Christian homes.

But a policy of "total commitment to Christian families" in some areas might lead people to think the school is not associating with its local community - especially if there is "a racial dimension".

So it says: "We would therefore suggest that some places should be reserved for children of other faiths and perhaps even of no faith. Again, a quota may be appropriate."

Disadvantage

It also recommends that the church make it a mission to cater for those who have least in life.

"We live in a society where the gap between the affluent and the poor causes much concern, and where there is a very real risk that the children of the poor are destined to remain poor, unless their talents can be nourished and their aspirations raised through an education that is excellent and that gives real hope," it says.

Throughout, the report stresses the need for the church must work by consensus and in partnership with others, and especially through local education authorities.

The government welcomed the report and said Church schools were a "valued and distinctive element" in the English school system.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We are sympathetic to the aspiration to increase the number of Church of England schools, in response to parental demand, and where the new schools could make a positive contribution to raising educational standards, particularly in disadvantaged areas."

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11 Jan 00 | Education
Church plans to run more schools
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