Use apprenticeship levy to train new vicars, says Church of England

The Church of England has expressed interest in utilising the new levy to fund the recruitment of ordinands

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The Church of England is in talks with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) about potentially using money raised by the apprenticeship levy to train the next generation of vicars, TES can reveal.

The move was first mentioned by Caroline Spelman, the second Church estates commissioner, in Parliament earlier this month as she told MPs that the Church of England "supports the government’s drive to increase the number of apprentices" and that it "would very much like to see the levy being used to train more ordinands".

When asked to expand on her position, Ms Spelman, whose role is to provide a link between government, Parliament and the Church of England, added: “In a way, the Church is an anomaly. Quite a lot of organisations have office holders – unless I am much mistaken, MPs are technically office holders – but every vicar in every parish is not in a position to employ an apprentice. Indeed, having a curate is quite a luxury, as it takes so much to train people. I hope the government will support the Church’s quest to use some of the moneys from the apprenticeship levy to meet its shortfall of approximately 40,000 ordinands.”

'Talks at an early stage'

When contacted by TES, a spokesman for the Church of England said: “The Church of England pays stipends to 8,000 clergy and others through a central payroll system for simplicity and efficiency, so will have to pay the apprenticeship levy. At the same time, the Church is heavily committed to training, with hundreds if not thousands of future clergy, youth workers and others in training in any year. The Church of England is, therefore, discussing – internally and with Bis – how we can work with the apprenticeship levy to maintain those high levels of professional development. Those talks are at a very early stage.”

A spokesperson for Bis said that although it had not yet received a formal bid from any group wishing to develop an apprenticeship standard for members of the clergy, it would be happy to speak to the Church of England to discuss the potential for an apprenticeship in this area and help advise it accordingly.

The spokesperson added: “Through roundtables, meetings, events and webinars we continue to engage with thousands of employers about the levy. We welcome expressions of interest in developing new apprenticeship standards at any time."

Last year Church commissioners revealed that they would aim to increase ordinations by 50 per cent by 2020 by using some of the Church's £6.1 billion endowment to help pay for a new expansion strategy.

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