Dearing lends a helping hand

22nd November 2002 at 00:00
A struggling Church of England School has called on the services of Lord Dearing, the author of a report on faith schools, to help it out of trouble. Governors of Bishop Reindorp in Guildford decided on a radical plan of action when it was placed in serious weaknesses by Ofsted and its school roll slumped from 1,300 to 900.

A steering group asked Lord Dearing to be its chairman in an attempt to turn the school around. Now a new head has been appointed, a brand new building is being planned, and the school intends to change its admissions policy to broaden its intake. Lord Dearing's report, published last year, recommends a more open admissions policy for church schools, accepting children of other faiths and none. The new head, David Robotham, said the the school would give priority to youngsters in the catchment area, irrespective of their beliefs; denominational issues would take second place.

"The school is situated in the 17th most deprived ward in the country," he says, "and the Church sees its mission is to serve its local area. The Dearing report talked about nurturing those in the faith, nourishing and encouraging those of faith, and challenging those of no faith."

The school used to draw pupils from the significant Islamic community in nearby Woking, but they fell away as the school declined. But Mr Ramsbotham believes they could now return.

"Though the school will be more ecumenical," he says, "there will be a clear commitment to assemblies and a strong commitment to religious studies, with everybody taking the subject to at least short-course GCSE."

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