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Our pupils progress faster, says Church

New study casts doubt on claim that C of E schools only do better because of intake Graeme Paton.

Church school pupils progress twice as fast as those in schools without a religious ethos, research has revealed.

A study by the National Institute for Christian Education Research, a new Church of England think-tank, shows children improve at a faster rate in Anglican schools.

The findings contradict an earlier study by the National Foundation for Educational Research which suggested faith secondaries do no better using the so-called "value-added" measure.

Secular groups this week rejected the Anglican report, pointing to statistics which show that C of E schools admit fewer children with special needs or those from deprived backgrounds.

Support for a faith-based education remains strong, even among non-believers. This week a survey of more than 1,000 adults by pollsters ORB showed that 58 per cent of those who never go to church believe Anglican schools have a "positive role" to play, rising to 83 per cent among people who go to church once every three months.

This week, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, used the evidence to reject claims that church schools only achieve good results by selecting pupils.

He told the C of E's Faith in the Future conference in London: "It may be the case that the educational achievement of faith schools prompts more applications from parents concerned about the milieu in which their children are educated - though it is a bit hard to blame faith schools for standards that are so widely admired."

Nevertheless, Dr Williams said that Anglican schools should subscribe to a national code for admissions, further ensuring that they are not open to accusations of backdoor selection. He also recommended the creation of a recruitment programme to encourage young Christians to teach.

The institute's study showed that pupils' progress at the country's 4,468 Anglican primary schools was more than double that achieved nationally, using the value-added measure. Pupils progressed three times as much at the 201 Anglican secondary schools than at other community schools.

Separate figures produced by the Department for Education and Skills showed that 34 per cent of children at faith schools receiving free school meals - a key measure of deprivation - got five good GCSEs last year, compared to 29 per cent elsewhere.

Meanwhile, other figures released by the church this week showed that its secondary schools take more black Caribbean and black African pupils than the national average - 2.7 per cent compared to some 1.5 per cent nationally. However, Anglican secondaries admit fewer Asian children: 1.9 per cent of pupils are from Indian backgrounds compared with 2.3 per cent nationally.

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