Skip to main content

There was no deal on faith schools

In your article "Blair ensures triumph of faith" (TES, March 1) you say that the outcome of the report of the committee appointed by the Church of England to advise on its schools, while presented to the outside world as a genuine inquiry, was in fact cleared with ministers.

The article goes on to say that part of the deal was that Church schools should take children from different backgrounds. Since I chaired that committee and led the consultation, I thought your readers might welcome a comment from me.

First, on the question of independence, all but one of us had a connection with the Church of England or Church in Wales, including the latter's Archbishop. So not surprisingly we started from a Church angle.

On the other hand we said exactly what we wanted to say, with no "by your leave" from anyone.

As for me, my credentials as a Churchman go no further than turning up once a week to a service, and for three dreadful years trying to keep the books for my local church.

I think I was asked to chair the committee because I was a half outsider who knew something about education.

As for a deal with the Government, those who remember other inquiries I have led will recall that I commit heavily to consultation, and this inquiry was no exception.

Indeed, we not only wrote widely asking for views, but held consultation meetings and issued a consultation report inviting views on our thinking before reporting.

To be more specific, we decided a few months after our appointment to issue an interim report recommending 100 more secondary schools.

After writing this report and before issuing it, I decided personally to brief and consult the education Front Bench spokespersons of all three main political parties. (I had done exactly the same kind of thing when leading the inquiry on higher education.) I recall the issue of inclusiveness came up at all three meetings. It was very much in our own minds and there was no disagreement between us because this precisely accorded with my committee's intentions.

We needed no deal with any political party to say what we said about inclusiveness. That is precisely what we wanted to say about any additional Church schools.

Lord Ron Dearing. House of Lords. London SW1

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you