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C of E opens school gates to non-believers

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 22 April, 2011 | By: David Marley

Education chief tells TES he wants to keep just 10 per cent of places for practising Anglicans

The Church of England is planning the biggest overhaul of its admissions code “in a generation” by urging schools to reserve no more than 10 per cent of places for followers of the faith.

Schools should not collect “nice Christians into safe places”, but instead work with the wider community and open themselves up to more children from non-religious backgrounds, according to the chairman of the church’s board of education.

The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, said that admissions policies favouring religious children should be changed, even if accepting a broader range of pupils damaged results.

“I’m really committed to our schools being as open as they can be,” Revd Pritchard told The TES. “I know that there are other philosophies that will start at the other end, that say that these are for our church families, but I have never been as convinced of that as others.

“Every school will have a policy that has a proportion of places for church youngsters … what I would be saying is that number ought to be minimised because our primary function and our privilege is to serve the wider community. Ultimately I hope we can get the number of reserved places right down to 10 per cent.”

The Bishop’s comments come ahead of guidelines on admissions to be published by the CofE during the summer. Around half of the church’s 4,800 schools are voluntary aided, meaning they control their own admissions policies.

Revd Pritchard said he recognised that “in the real world” there were oversubscribed CofE schools that allocate high numbers of places based on religious observance.

The church cannot force individual governing bodies to change their admissions rules, but by issuing guidance it can put pressure on them to change. Revd Pritchard admitted that the move would not prove popular with all schools.

“I’m quite happy to have good, honest, robust discussions about what church schools are for,” he said. “It goes back to what we see the mission of the church as being. I don’t think the mission generally is about collecting nice Christians into safe places.”

Revd Pritchard conceded the change might lead to lower exam results. “We may not get the startling results that some church schools do because of getting some very able children, but we will make a difference to people’s lives,” he said.

Professor Anne West from the London School of Economics, an expert on school admissions, said the guidance “could have the biggest impact on admissions to CofE schools in a generation”.

“There will be quite a lot of concern at school level because it could drastically change the character of the schools in some cases,” she said.

Revd Clive Sedgewick, director of education for the dioceses of Bradford and Ripon and Leeds, said any changes would have to be made slowly. “We have enough things with academies and free schools that we may be shooting ourselves in the foot to make massive changes in addition,” he said. “Personally, I might suggest a third of places being reserved. There’s a lot of debate to be had.”

Revd Sedgewick said the move was likely to prove contentious with some parents. “There are parents that will see it as a retrograde step to have a higher number of non church attenders,” he said.

The last Labour government attempted to guarantee 25 per cent of places at new faith schools for non-religious pupils, but was forced into a U-turn after lobbying by the Catholic church. New free schools with a religious character cannot reserve more than 50 per cent of places on faith grounds - still a much higher proportion than being suggested by the CofE.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chair of the Accord coalition that campaigns for open admissions to faith schools, said the CofE was taking a “step in the right direction”. “Those who object to it need to question why discrimination should remain a religious value in the 21st century,” he said.

 

Original headline: C of E to throw open school gates to mass of non-believers


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Comment (16)

  • I think a better option, rather than focussing primarily on proportions of Christian students, not focus on socio-economic factors. If the church is serious about its mission, it should first admit those pupils of free school meals, before any faith-based quota. I also, however, think that it is right for church schools to provide a Christian education for Christian families. If non-Christians want that education too, then maybe we need more church schools, not to exclude Christians from those we have already.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:19
    21 April, 2011

    BillyBobJoe

  • Would Anglicans be happy if only 80% of hospitals would treat them? Would Catholics be happy if only 80% of libraries would serve them? No. And yet their leaders (and those parents who use discriminatory faith schools) deem it perfectably acceptable to support the most blatant discrimination against children, parents and teachers when it comes to school admissions and employment. It's amazing how self-interest can blind those who claim the moral high ground.

    It's simple: all schools that are paid for by all taxpayers should be available to all children. No more, but certainly no less. And the more that churches need to be dragged kicking and screaming towards that end, the more they will lose - and will deserve to lose - respect. The curches see faith schools as a way of bolstering their flagging number of adherants through indoctrination, but actually discriminating against others - combined with homophobic doctrines - will be their fastrack to vilification and, ultimately, obscurity.

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    23:39
    21 April, 2011

    Equalitarian

  • I dont think we can condemn faith schools to such a degree. There are many both church school and indeed faith schools of other religions that out perform many mainstream schools. I think it is acceptable to say, that some people are attracted by such statistics.
    Whilst free school meal children may bring in extra money, they also bring with them a higher percentage of social and emotional problems.
    I think with the growing number of 'free schools' allowed to open under the present govenment, it is safe to say we will not see faith schools decreasing.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:42
    22 April, 2011

    malteaser muncher

  • God forbid that Christian schools should admit Christians. That might lead to dreadful consequences, like Christian principles getting loose in society. Dear me, how awful that would be.

    I presume that Muslin schools will likewise be compelled to admit 90% non-Muslims?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    17:49
    22 April, 2011

    rosemarywilliams

  • The Bishop reminds the church, parents and taxpayers that schools are there to serve the wider community.

    The Bishop is practising what the Church preaches: "But Jesus called them [unto him], and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Luke 18:16 King James' Version).

    The Church should welcome all comers, as their faith dictates.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9:47
    23 April, 2011

    Retired123

  • It is great to welcome any faith or creed, as long as they then don't begin to object to the Christian principles, behaviour and worship on which the school is founded. That is what has happened far too much in society. It all seems to go the way of the non-Christian or non religious in terms of clamping down on what they believe or what they can say. It would be like a person applying for a job in a bread factory and then telling their supervisor they are allergic to wheat and need to factory to adapt to their needs. It sounds stupid, but that is what has happened within this country.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    16:30
    25 April, 2011

    elainejoy

  • I don't have a problem with it as long as it doesn't water down Christian values, teaching and ethos.... Christian (faith) schools are sought after and better for a reason. Becoming 'secular' and pandering to the wants of 'secular' values would be a mistake.

    Sharing of our faith is central to Christian believers... and as long as persons who subscribe are ok with that, then not a problem.

    Where a difficulty might arise however is where parents subscribe to a Christian school and then 'insist' that their child not be 'subjected to Christian teaching'... the answer to this dilema should be kept simple..... Don't go to a Christian school!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    23:24
    25 April, 2011

    oscuffins

  • In Essex as in other ares of the country, primary schools are allocated to children by a formula which leads to many kids getting second and third choices or even a no-choice. Hidden amongst the statistics is the fact that there is a terrible infliction of faith onto non-faith children.

    Many children are allocated a 'christian' or 'faith' school against the wishes of their intelligent parents who have seen through the delusions offered by those of belief. They are, of course, given the option of opting out of christian mind control; but that isn't the point. Despite objections, children of secular people are forced to put there children into the delusional hands of people who worship gods from the Bronze age..............How bad is that? Far worse than any nonsense mentioned so far (above).

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, LEAVE OUR KIDS ALONE............GET RID OF FAITH SCHOOLS & JUST TEACH EVIDENCE BASED KNOWLEDGE!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:46
    26 April, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • oscuffins says ''Don't go to a Christian school!'' But I really object to my taxes going to these delusional institutions in the first place.

    oscuffins can send his/her kids to a Christian school; but let the christians pay for it not the tax payers!

    Quote: 'I don't have a problem with it as long as it doesn't water down Christian values, teaching and ethos.'.........Read your bible and explain why it endorses slavery. Your values & ethos are those of a humanist not a christian; I'll bet you!

    Quote: 'It is great to welcome any faith or creed, as long as they then don't begin to object to the Christian principles, behaviour and worship on which the school is founded.'...................How many people have to die in the name of religion before idiots realise that Christian principles, Muslim principles, Jewish principles do not involve the word 'tolerance'?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:53
    26 April, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • The real church is a broad church - the Global Church of Equality & Diversity which is a networked meritocracy and is inclusive. The only joining requirement is that the applicant is human. After that it's all down to natural human ethics.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    21:25
    26 April, 2011

    Cirko

  • RedCoat,

    Quote: 'Funny how ignorant people hide the ugliness of elements of human nature behind their bigotted attitudes against faith. Take it to the Cambodian Killing Fields or the Soviet Gulag.'

    I always thought bigotted was spelt bigoted. Having read the many & various irrational rantings of those with 'faith' & 'belief' particularly on sex & sexuality I'd expect a bigot like yourself to be able to spell bigoted correctly.

    Not sure what you are saying. No atheist has ever killed in the name of atheism, yet every day people kill & die in the name of religion. If your god is soooo powerful how come he let the political atrocities of the Cambodian Killing Fields & the Soviet Gulag happen? For future reference, the Cambodian Killing Fields & the Soviet Gulag did not happen because of a lack of religious dogma; they happened because of too much political dogma.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    8:56
    27 April, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • Cirko,

    Quote: 'The real church is a broad church - the Global Church of Equality & Diversity which is a networked meritocracy and is inclusive. The only joining requirement is that the applicant is human. After that it's all down to natural human ethics.'

    Shame that broad church doesn't allow homosexuality or the holding of any other faith views or a rational stance of no-faith. For information: Natural human ethics cannot sit anywhere near religious morality which is based on the mutterings of bronze age men (not women!) about a man called Jesus whose very existance has never been historically established.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    9:00
    27 April, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • "If the church is serious about its mission, it should first admit those pupils of free school meals, before any faith-based quota"

    Faith feeds the souls, not the body.There are many children that would benefit from the Christian ethos although they live in rich nests.

    Why do we not leave the search for faith to be dealt with only by the churches, and leave schools free to teach maths and english? Just as well, we could give the responsability of teaching moral, values and sexuality back to parents and family.

    Schools are not here to heal ALL the painful paradoxes of the commom man.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    11:18
    27 April, 2011

    janaina_eraupp

  • Brooke Bond: 'delusional hands of people who worship gods from the Bronze age..............How bad is that?'

    please remember, that Churches were/are made by men,Christ himself never created a church or gave it a name. He just talked about tolerance - I see you don't seem very familiar with the message Jesus tried to pass on, you are stuck with the vast majority, fighting over churches and no-churches. Please demonstrate respect, and don't call people that have faith 'idiots'...even if this is their 'desilusional' choice, it might bring them hope and make them a better person.

    It is nice to have a strong debate, but even better than that is a strong debate with respect!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    12:18
    27 April, 2011

    janaina_eraupp

  • janaina_eraupp,

    Quote: 'Faith feeds the souls, not the body.There are many children that would benefit from the Christian ethos although they live in rich nests.'

    Faith is blind acceptance of lies without asking for evidence & the 'soul' simply does not exist; I can PROVE that statement beyond doubt, by the way! You talk in riddles about very serious issues...........GET REAL!

    Quote: 'Why do we not leave the search for faith to be dealt with only by the churches, and leave schools free to teach maths and english? Just as well, we could give the responsability of teaching moral, values and sexuality back to parents and family.'

    Exactly schools are for evidence based knowledge. Faith is nothing but nonsense.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    19:56
    27 April, 2011

    Brooke Bond

  • janaina_eraupp,

    Quote: 'Christ himself never created a church or gave it a name. He just talked about tolerance'

    There is not one single bit of HISTORICAL EVIDENCE that a man called Jesus existed. The ideas of 'tolerance' are NOT in evidence in the bible any more than the ideas that slavery is 'good', selling your daughter is 'good' or murder is fine as long as it is in the name of god. You should read your bible.

    Quote: 'Please demonstrate respect, and don't call people that have faith 'idiots'...even if this is their 'desilusional' choice, it might bring them hope and make them a better person. It is nice to have a strong debate, but even better than that is a strong debate with respect!'

    Ignorance deserves respect, when people can't help being ignorant. Ignorance doesn't deserve respect when it is deliberate. I share stories with people who believe in fairies, dragons etc if they are children. I laugh in the face of people who believe in fairies, dragons etc if they are adults! This isn't a debate; people of faith have nothing to offer in a debate.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:20
    27 April, 2011

    Brooke Bond

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