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Church should be guiding heads

The Church of England wants a hands-on rolein daily acts of worship, reports Nicholas Pyke.

ANGLICAN parishes should help lead a revival of good quality school worship, according to the incoming head of the Church of England's education service.

Vicars or regular church-goers should be on call if council-run primary and secondary schools need help with daily acts of collective worship or religious education.

The Bishop of Blackburn, Alan Chesters, who is the new chairman of the Church Board of Education, wants to expand the Church's role in education. But, he said, that role comes at a price.

"We have to persuade the Church that we really have got an opportunity and that resources must be released for that purpose," he told The TES. "I see church schools as a catalyst within the system for good practice to do with spiritual and moral values, and also for helping to develop good relationships between schools and local communities.

"But if the dioceses are serious, we have to have more people on the ground, going into schools. It seems that we have a responsibility to use what opportunities we can to promote good quality RE and imaginative collective worship.

"Not that we should underestimate the challenges with regard to collective worship," he said. "It requires a great deal of time and, especially, resources. If heads and their staff can't do it, they ought to be able to turn to local religious communities."

Bishop Chesters also believes that Church schools should do more to liaise with Asian and other minority groups as part of their wider social mission.

"Where members of ethnic communities, particularly those from an Islamic background, want their children to go to Church schools, you should take as your basic principle that every child is of infinite value. What many parents want is that the name of God is heard. They're not sure they get that in the secular schools. Without a dialogue, it's possible that you have a very sad situation where the school ceases to serve the community and its children."

The bishop will be responsible for 4,500 primary schools, 200 secondaries plus 12 Church colleges of higher education when he takes over as chairman of the General Synod's Board of Education next month. He will also be the Church's education spokesman in the House of Lords.

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