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Church schools urged to keep faith

Karen Thornton reports on Lord Dearing's recommendations for the re-Christianising of Anglican schools

CHURCH schools should become more actively Christian, says a report for the Church of England which recommends a checklist to ensure faith permeates pupils' daily activities.

The latest report from Lord Dearing's review of the Church's education service recommends using admissions policies and minimum quotas of Anglican pupils to protect and develop schools' Christian character, and sets out "minimum" standards for church schools, including daily worship.

The 67-page consultation document urges dioceses to carry out a full review of local education services, from training for the clergy to relationships with church teacher-training colleges.

It highlights a shortfall in primary places, as well as reaffirming Lord Dearing's previously announced goal of increasing the number of Anglican secondary schools by 100 in five years.

Lord Dearing, whose past achievements include slimming the national curriculum, was put in charge of reviewing church schools last year. His latest report highlights concerns that a minority of voluntary-controlled schools have become increasingly secular. One diocese asked for advice on "re-Christianising" such schools.

The report says that all church schools should have a distinctively Christian character, noting that, on current trends, the Church will soon have more pupils in its schools than worshippers in pews on Sunday.

Voluntary aided should be the preferred status, because it means a majority of church-appointed governors and control over admissions policies and staffing decisions. Faith should be an admissions criterion, and quotas should e set for a minimum of Anglican children to help secure a school's church identity.

But oversubscribed schools drawing Anglican children from a wide area should welcome local children of other faiths, to avoid being cut off from their communities. Church schools should be "confident in their own faith", but not actively seeking to convert pupils from the faith of their parents.

"Teachers, teachers, teachers" are the key to any expansion of church schools, and parishes should do more to encourage able Christians, young and old, to see teaching as a vocation as important as the priesthood, it adds.

Dioceses should also identify Christian teachers with the potential for leadership, and ensure they get the in-service training they need. Help should be available from the church teacher-training colleges, and, Lord Dearing hopes, from the new national college for school leadership.

See www.natsoc.org.uk Consultations on the report close on February 14

Checklist

* Ensure the headteacher is committed to maintaining the Christian character of the school in the curriculum and day-to-day activities.

* Engage meaningfully in Christian worship every day.

* Observe the major Christian festivals, and mark other faiths' festivals with integrity.

* Incorporate Christian values in school life.

* Give religious education at least 5 per cent of school time.

* Make RE a particular concern of heads and governors.

* Have an active relationship with a parish church.

* Proclaim they are Church of England schools on stationery and signs.

* Strive, in voluntary-controlled schools, to ensure their quota of reserved teachers have a Christian background.

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