THE Church of England is being urged to open 100 new schools over the next five years.
Government initiatives such as City Academies and Fresh Starts for failing schools all offer opportunities for growth, according to the head of a review group set up by the Archbishops' Council.
But expansion of existing schools and the establishment of new voluntary-aided ones, at an estimated cost of around pound;2 million each, should also be considered.
Lord Dearing, education's former Mr Fix-it, today released his review group's interim report on expanding church school provision in the secondary sector.
The General Synod resolved in 1998 that schools were at the centre of the Church's mission to the nation. Yet it provides only 150,000 secondary places, compared to 790,000 in primary, despite significant parental demand for places.
Church schools also help dra parents into a relationship with the Christian faith, with many more likely to take part in worship at schools than at church services.
The number of children attending Sunday school is a fifth of those studying at Church schools, notes the report, while Sunday attendance at Anglican services has now fallen below a million.
Each diocese should be looking to create the equivalent of two new 1,000-place schools, and preferably three, if none or only one already exist in their areas, says Lord Dearing.
Major cities or towns without a Church of England secondary school include Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sheffield, Sunderland, Plymouth, Gloucester, Ipswich, Norwich, Bournemouth and Brighton. Seven dioceses - including Derby and Winchester - also have no secondary schools. Another seven - including Durham, Bradford, Bristol, and Portsmouth - have only one.