Anglicans to see more secondaries

The Church of England is planning to expand its secondary schools to meet increasing demand for a church education.

Despite years of reticence about their role in education, the era of competition has brought renewed confidence to the Anglican bishops as their schools win plaudits from parents and politicians alike.

Next month, the Church's General Synod will be asked to support an official resolution calling for an expansion of its secondary system which, at present, is vastly outweighed by Church primaries.

The Church owns one in four of all English primary schools, educating 750,000 children. But only 145,000 of these find a place in an Anglican secondary school.

"The fact is that Church secondary schools are having to turn away thousands of pupils," said Canon John Hall, general secretary of the synod's board of education. "Parents are clamouring for a Church education. They recognise the importance of an education based on Christian belief and values." They also recognise that Anglican and Catholic schools get above-average GCSE results, and that Church schools have been praised by the Education Secretary, David Blunkett.

The Synod resolution, drawn up by the board of education, urges better funding for diocesan education services, which have an enhanced role under the Government's new schools framework, due to be implemented next year.

The next few months are crucial for the Anglican and Catholic education sectors as their schools, in common with all others, will be asked to choose whether they wish to have "aided" status (currently voluntary aided); "foundation status" (likely to attract grant-maintained and voluntary-controlled schools); or "community status" (similar to the local authority maintained sector ).

The Church has already taken advantage of reorganisation schemes to "take over" existing schools. The Regis school in Wolverhampton has just been reconstituted as the voluntary- aided King's School.

The vast disparity between the Church's primary and secondary sectors is largely a historical accident. The 1944 Education Act meant Anglican schools - which had taught pupils of all ages - had to deem themselves primary or secondary. Most, being old and small, opted to be primaries.

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