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I am a foundation governor of a voluntary-aided school, also a parent. This school has an exceptionally strong church "feel" which under a new vicar has increased dramatically. This is not easy to handle because it is a fairly large primary school in a village where there is no alternative unless parents can transport their children some distance.

A majority undoubtedly feel that the faith element is getting excessive: pressure to attend Sunday services, frequent week-day assemblies in church, a very heavy ration of religious education, lots of pressure to contribute money for the upkeep of the building.

More difficult times lie ahead with numbers increasing (I don't know how I would have coped before if we had had to refuse village children on grounds of non-observance); there are also rumours of a small group meeting about changing the name to that of the church rather than the village, which will offend many.

I feel very bad. I am a believer and I hope a good church member, but as a parent where is my responsibility? I know the community will not be behind the school the way things are going.

This is one of the most difficult letters I have had. The voluntary-aided sector has privileges (and extra responsibilities) which go back a long way and are enshrined in law and tradition. You can't ignore them.

Foundation governors have a responsibility to protect the ethos of the school and the principles on which it was established, but everybody in the community helps pay its running costs and there is no sense in having - and increasing as the law did not long ago - parent representation if community feeling is not considered. You can't ignore that either.

From what you say the village in general accepts church influence, but feels it is going too far, which extremists must heed. Those feelings have to be aired before the new developments create a real crisis and damage the church as well as the village.

Your position certainly is difficult, but you mustn't bottle up your concern or struggle with the issue alone. As a supportive church member you are in a strong position, and you have four other parent governors with whom you can work to assess community feeling and make sure that the issues are openly discussed and views honestly relayed to your vicar.

Have a look at the trust deed if there is one, or similar documents about the aims and ethos. It could be helpful. Make sure the proper time is being given to other national curriculum subjects. Remember your admission criteria have to be regularly reviewed and consulted on, and if you think necessary ask for some work to be done on future numbers and the possible need to increase capacity.

Those who are talking about the name change should do so in the open. It is not an easy procedure, the governors' support must not be taken for granted and lots of consultation has to take place. I have been amazed what an emotional issue this can be, especially if you have a substantial part of a village with a friendly attitude to the church but only fairly superficial attachment to its teaching. Incidentally I would have thought the church was far more likely to increase that attachment by keeping the friendliness of these people and their children.

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