Little faith in church policy

Tes Editorial

CANON John Hall's reported remarks ("Faith law will 'press' inclusion on schools", TES, May 3) demonstrate clearly enough that the Church of England's policy with regard to its church schools is now an utter shambles.

Referring to the scheme to make governing bodies consult diocesan boards over their admissions policies, he issues a warning to those which do not take the diocese's advice. This advice, by implication, would seem inevitably to be to push the Church's politically-correct "inclusive" policy.

The Church of England's so-called "chief education officer" is failing to take seriously the implications of Lord Dearing's report The Way Ahead, and of a statement made just six months ago by his boss, the Bishop of Blackburn, Alan Chesters, the chairman of the church's board of education.

From The Way Ahead: "In an increasingly secular society the Church is right to respond to the concern of Christian parents to give their children the opportunity to experience what it is to learn in a distinctively Christian environment".

It is furthermore felt justifiable for a school to "conclude that its task is to nurture Anglican or other Christian children in their faith and to allocate all its resources accordingly (because) there are other schools to which children can go."

That is clear enough: there is formal recognition of the rationale for the "exclusive" faith school, which Canon Hall now seems determined to undermine.

In the Bishop of Blackburn's Hockerill lecture of November 2001 we read:

"The reality is that for Anglican schools there are different emphases according to local need and circumstances and the Church would be unwise (and indeed un-Anglican) to go for one definition or one model for a church school."

If Canon Hall is seeking to impose an inclusive one-fit-all admissions policy, as his remarks would suggest, then perhaps Bishop Chesters ought to consider the implications of having an "un-Anglican" and "unwise" general secretary of his board, and take appropriate action.

Failing that, we can only assume that the bishop didn't really mean what he said. Perhaps we will then know who is formulating CofE policy for its schools, but also what it is.

Are there to be different models depending on "local need and circumstances" as has traditionally been the case? Or will all the church schools in the future be known as "Hall schools"?

The Rev PW Shepherd Headmaster, Canon Slade school Bradshaw Brow Bolton

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