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“Muslim infiltration of education”: it’s not about faith schools

April 16th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith, Islam Comments Off

From Theos

In Birmingham, 25 schools are now being investigated by four separate enquiries after accusations that the have been “taken over” and “infiltrated” by “Muslim extremists”. The strategy was revealed in a letter between sent from Birmingham to Bradford, and forwarded to Birmingham City Council last year: "We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools." It is not known whether the letter is genuine – others have suggested it’s a deliberately provocative hoax. Either way, it has prompted some 200 other complaints from parents and some teachers.

[...]  It has not yet been established whether or not the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter which prompted early concerns is genuine, or a provocative hoax. But if I were to lay a small bet on the matter, I would put it on a relatively small number of genuine cases of manipulation by Salafi groups, mixed with quite a lot of wider Muslim communities looking in legitimate ways for schooling that reflects their values, which prompts the beleaguered and marginalised minority white community to feel like they’re being robbed of the opportunity to have their children educated in a way that’s meaningful for them. It’s neither simple nor pretty, it’s just where we are. To use a sporting metaphor, these are the kind of balls that will pop out of the ruck of the heritage of naïve immigration policies, rapid demographic change and the growth in the number of academy schools.

One final point with which to conclude. None of the 25 schools being investigated are faith schools. Contrary to the vexatious claims of the National Secular Society, the issue has absolutely nothing to do with the state funding of religious schools. There may be problems and controversies around faith schools, but these events in Birmingham are not an instance of them. There may even be problems with faith schools in east Birmingham (I think there’s anecdotal evidence that white parents may favour Christian schools, for obvious reasons given the above), but Muslim communities, if they have sought to influence community schools or academies, will not have been caused to do so by the presence of schools with a religious foundation. If it’s been done, it would have been done anyway.

I make no claim to know the right policy response, but I think I could pick a few wrong ones. The most superficial thing that can be said about the business – remembering, of course, that we the general public are not yet in possession of anything like the full facts – is to use it as an argument against faith schools. As arguments go, its plain lazy.

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Booklet on implications of same-sex ‘marriage’ placed in schools

April 15th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education, Gay Marriage Comments Off

From Christian Concern

The Coalition for Marriage has succeeded in placing its booklet informing teachers of the implications of introducing same-sex marriage in every school in Gloucestershire.

The 27-page guide contains sections headed “No promotion of sexual orientation” and “Teachers are free to express opinions, but not to promote political policies”.

Advice has also been given to schools in the guidance issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) which states:

• No school, or individual teacher, is under a duty to support, promote or endorse marriage of same sex couples.
• Teachers, other school staff, governors, parents and pupils are all free to hold whatever personal views they choose on marriage of same sex couples, including a view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. The Government recognises that the belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society.
• Schools with a religious character can continue to deliver sex and relationship education in accordance with their particular religious doctrines or ethos.”

Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage, Colin Hart said: "We hope that this guidance will help protect children, teachers and parents who believe in traditional marriage. Our own guide also highlights why teachers should not be forced to endorse the redefinition of marriage in the classroom and emphasises that schools should deal with this controversial issue in a balanced and sensitive way.

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In-demand schools: the gospel truth

March 29th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Graeme Paton, Telegraph

Religious belief may be in free fall, but faith schools’ appeal to the godly – or frankly desperate – is undimmed

The number of adults declaring a religious belief appears to have been in decline for years. According to the most recent census, the Christian population of England and Wales nosedived by about four million over the past decade, while the number of people with “no faith” almost doubled.

But there is one cross-section of the community that seems consistently immune to our collective slide towards agnosticism. Figures show that churchgoing remains strongest – and, in many cases, is increasing – in areas that surround oversubscribed faith schools.

To supporters of the system, it shows the extent to which good schools with a religious ethos act as a focal point for families with a shared belief.

But to sceptics, it merely illustrates what many have long suspected – that large numbers of parents conveniently find God when there is a chance of getting their children into a decent state school and saving themselves the cost of a private education. In short: get on your knees, avoid the fees.

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RE could save youngsters from extremists, say MPs

March 18th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education Comments Off

By Padraic Flanagan, Telegraph

Better teaching of religion would increase community harmony and lessen the risk of radicalisation, says all-party MPs report

Youngsters could be prevented from becoming radicalised by violent extremists if religious education was improved in schools, MPs have said.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Religious Education also concluded that tension among multi-faith communities is reduced when young people are given classes on religion and beliefs.

It said the subject can help to encourage good relations by giving youngsters a chance to think about their own beliefs and values and to consider religious, ethical and philosophical issues from different points of view.

RE classes also allow pupils to ask questions and address contentious topics, look at why misconceptions exist about some groups and teaches them to be "informed, active citizens", the APPG said.

The report comes amid growing concern at how vulnerable groups of young people can be radicalised by violent extremists and fundamentalists who claim religious backing for their militant views.

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Parents ‘only go to church for places at faith schools’

March 17th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Church of England, Education Comments Off

By Laura Clark, Mailonline

Institutions lay down clearer criteria to help beat 'pew jumping'

Parents are going to church simply to get their children into over-subscribed schools, the Church of England’s own research has admitted.

A major new report tells clergy that ‘middle-class suburbs with church schools’ offer ‘great opportunities’ to boost their congregations.

It reveals that ‘some churchgoing is clearly motivated by a desire to qualify for school admission’ – suggesting that some parents are feigning religious observance to improve their chances of winning school places.

The findings are likely to add to perceptions that church schools are ‘creaming off’ middle-class parents who regard them as free alternatives to private education, as illustrated by sayings such as ‘on your knees to avoid the fees’.

Anecdotal evidence abounds of parents making sudden conversions to Christianity in the months before their children need a school place.

Churches have attempted to clamp down on the practice of so-called ‘pew-jumping’ by laying down clearer criteria for admission to its schools.

But the latest study suggests it may still be widespread.

It follows figures earlier this year that appeared to show how rising numbers of children were being given late baptisms to secure places at over-subscribed Catholic schools.

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Sorry, campaining mums – it’s faith that makes faith schools work

March 10th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education, Faith Comments Off

By Toby Young, Spectator

An email popped into my inbox on Tuesday morning urging me to join a ‘fair admissions campaign’ that’s been launched by a couple of mums in Shepherd’s Bush. Their children are at a local primary school and they’re angry that they won’t be able to get them into any of the local faith schools. ‘Two of our children are in Year Five and we feel offended by the fact that out of 11 secondary schools in the borough almost half will put them at the very bottom of the waiting list due to our “wrong” beliefs,’ they write.

Now, I’m probably among the dozen or so local residents least likely to join this campaign but, to be fair, I don’t think they singled me out. Rather, they sent the same email to hundreds of people, hoping to cash in on the fact that Tuesday was ‘National Offer Day’, the day when parents who’ve applied to state secondaries learn their children’s fate.

I have some sympathy for these women. One of the reasons I helped set up the West London Free School is because I, too, was unhappy about the quality of education being offered by the local secular comprehensives. But that was five years ago. There are three new secondary schools in the borough now — two of them free schools — and the old ones have got better. For instance, the percentage of children getting five A–Cs in their GCSEs including English and maths at Fulham Cross Girls’ School was 48 per cent in 2008, compared to 69 per cent in 2013. The gap in quality between local comprehensives and local faith schools is closing.

However, I’m afraid that’s where my sympathy ends. What parents who complain about being excluded from faith schools don’t understand is that the reason they’re above average — which is why they want to send their children to them in the first place — is precisely because of their religious ethos.

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We Neglect Religious Education At Our Peril

March 1st, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Nick Morrison, Forbes

Religious education is in crisis. The subject is increasingly marginalized, unloved and taught by non-specialists – at a time when teaching about religion has never been more important. The result is we risk creating a vacuum that spells danger for all of us.

Many of the most divisive issues we face today are coated in religion, whether it is those that divide a community, such as abortion or gay marriage, or those that give rise to conflicts between societies. If ever there has been a time when an understanding of belief and the role it plays in people’s lives is important it is now.

And yet we seem content to let it wither, caught between a worry it could be seen as indoctrination and a suspicion that it is an anachronism in a scientific age.

In the U.K., the government has scrapped grants for trainee religious education teachers, at a time when one fifth of places are already unfilled. Although the subject is compulsory up to 16, it is more likely to be taught by non-specialists than any other and its exclusion from the core that count towards school rankings ensures it will be marginalized.

Arguably, the situation in the U.S. is just as debilitating. The constitutional separation of church and state dogs arguments over religious education in public schools, with the result that many parents look elsewhere, to Sunday schools and the like.

It is not as if the aspiration isn’t there. A report by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, which brings together professional associations and different faith communities, included the intention to equip children with “the skills needed to engage seriously with religions and worldviews”, so they can examine how individuals and communities can live together.

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Government accused of discriminating against Religious Education

February 25th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education Comments Off

By Michael Trimmer, Christian Today

The Government's failure to provide bursaries for those wishing to teach Religious Education amounts to "rank discrimination", says a leading RE body.

While the government offers £20,000 bursaries to cover the living costs of postgraduates studying to teach many other subjects, like languages, maths or the sciences, the same is not true of students looking to teach RE.

Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss MP confirmed this month that no bursaries would be offered for RE teachers in training this year, despite representation from the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education, and the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend John Pritchard.

John Keast, chairman of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said in a statement that it was "hard to avoid the conclusion that the refusal to give bursaries to RE trainees whilst providing them for nearly every other subject is pure discrimination by this Government against RE".

These comments come after four charitable organisations, Culham St Gabriel's, Keswick Hall Trust, St Luke's Foundation, and the Jerusalem Trust, established a common fund of £220,000 to support any postgraduates looking to train in teaching RE.

However this will only be enough to support 11 potential teachers to the same extent as the Government supports other subjects, despite the fact that RE remains a compulsory GCSE subject.

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Europe’s Home Schooling Parents Treated Unfairly

February 21st, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education Comments Off

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Study reveals teens’ views on faith and RE

February 5th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

From Sec-Ed.co.uk

The wide-ranging Youth on Religion project has given us a number of insights into teenagers’ views on faith, including their concerns about the content and delivery of religious education. Professor Nicola Madge explains.

Young people in multi-faith areas favour multi-faith over single-faith schools. They also value religious education but want to see changes in its content and delivery.

New research findings from the Youth On Religion (YOR) study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council’s Religion and Society programme, are based on a survey of more than 10,000 13 to 17-year-olds and interviews with around 160 17 to 18-year-olds.

The research was carried out in three multi-faith locations – the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Newham, and Bradford in Yorkshire. Participants came from a range of faith backgrounds and included Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and those with no specific faith.

A central message from the research is that 6th-formers have a high level of respect and tolerance for peers from different backgrounds.

Most stress how multi-faith schooling, providing opportunities to get to know other pupils with a range of faith values, is good preparation for later life, including going to university. Mixing at school or college also encourages an interest in diversity and helps to reduce prejudice.

Multi-faith schools do not, however, provide any guarantee of integration. Reports of religious and cultural groups clustering together, and clear indications that pupils are particularly likely to choose best friends from similar faith and cultural backgrounds, emerged from the study.

Nonetheless serious clashes between faith groups at school or college seemed rare. Arguments and name-calling were reported but did not appear to be predominantly about religious values, even if religious labels were used as forms of abuse.

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Stevie Wonder, Oprah and iPhones oust Jesus as topics of discussion at traditional Christian school assemblies

February 2nd, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

By Jonathan Petre, Mailonline

A growing number of schools are ditching traditional Christian assemblies in favour of reflections on topics such as iPhones, Oprah Winfrey and Stevie Wonder, a Mail on Sunday investigation has found.

Up to 270 primary and secondary schools have been allowed to opt out of the legal requirement to provide a daily act of ‘broadly Christian’ collective worship – up from about 230 five years ago.

Documents obtained from local authorities under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws show that one secondary school, Acton High School in Ealing, included the ‘birth of the iPhone’, to highlight ‘communications’.

Traditionalists attacked the trend for robbing children of their understanding of a vital element of Britain’s heritage.

Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘It is the birthright of children in this country to become familiar with its identity – including its religious identity – which is, broadly speaking, Christian.

Moving from the nativity of Christ to the nativity of the iPhone shows the extent to which assemblies have become degraded.’

But Acton High School head Andy Sievewright said only a quarter of his pupils were from a Christian background, so the school did not have ‘a specifically Christian focus’.

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Religious Education in India and England

January 27th, 2014 Chris Sugden Posted in Education Comments Off

By Vinay Samuel and Chris Sugden, Evangelicals Now – February 2014

A debate has begun in India and in England about Religious Education.

State schools in India do not teach any religion due to the fear of imposing the teaching of one religion on all pupils. The rise of Islamic and Hindu extremism and violent attacks by such extremists has outraged the majority who are suspicious about any religion being promoted.

For nearly two hundred years Church/ Christian Schools in India taught Christian Scripture as a subject of study for all students. After Independence in 1947 many Christian schools began to abandon teaching scripture or offered it only to Christian pupils. Some were able to ensure scripture teaching for all students by asking non-Christian parents to agree in writing that they had no objection to the practice of the school. It was also a condition for school admission. Non-Christian parents eager to have their children educated in such Christian schools had no other option and hardly any parent contested it legally.

In the 1960’s Christian Schools experimented with “Moral Education”

Its focus was on ethics rather than religion. Moral universals were presented with no grounding in a particular religion and failed to make an impact on the students.

Research has shown that what non-Christian pupils gained from the study of the Bible was its moral and ethical teaching. The fears of some of the non-Christian parents that their children might convert to Christianity through their study of the Bible proved to be unfounded.

Vinay Samuel argues: “In India we need to open a national debate about teaching Religion and Ethics in Schools particularly now when the horror of the sickness in Indian culture on gender matters is so public and there is despair about bringing any cultural transformation.”

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Australia: Victorian schools warned following complaints about religious education

January 22nd, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education, Religious Liberty Comments Off

By Daniel Hurst, Guardian

Concerns raised over evangelical Christian group prompts education department to remind principals of guidelines

Parents’ complaints about a Christian group running religious seminars in public schools have triggered a warning from the Victorian education department to principals about potential policy breaches.
 
OAC Ministries – whose presentations often feature puppetry, music, games and storytelling – confirmed it was seeking legal advice on its continued ability to visit schools in Victoria, having attended at least 200 last year.
 
The group said it previously believed its members could present educational seminars in schools if those individuals were accredited by Access Ministries, the organisation authorised by the department to provide Christian religious instruction in Victorian schools. The public school visits were intended to educate students about what Christians believed in “fun and engaging ways” without breaching state guidelines.
 
But campaigners for secular public education said it was inappropriate for Christian evangelists to make presentations to students, arguing parents were often unaware of the nature of the activities. OAC Ministries’ teams visit hundreds of primary and secondary schools throughout Australia each year “by invitation”, according to the group’s website.
 
The national co-ordinator of OAC Ministries, Geoff Westlake, told Guardian Australia its members were “Christian evangelists in some settings, but that does not include state schools”. He said the group “might occasionally pray” in the presence of students but this was educationally appropriate, as students would be observers rather than participants in the prayer. Westlake said the group was committed to ethical conduct and had not received any complaints from parents about its school presentations.
 
The Victorian education department has asked principals to check that any organisations providing religious programs or events to children in schools are not infringing policy.
 
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Why do schools sideline religious education?

January 15th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education Comments Off

From The Guardian's Blogging Students

Religious education just isn't taken seriously at school. It is undervalued and unappreciated. Merged with citizenship and social studies, it sits huddled in a corner at the edge of the humanities office. But it can teach students valuable ways of thinking that help at university and later on in life too.
Religious education (RE) is so easily ignored that one of the schools I went to didn't even give the subject its own teachers, instead making do with borrowed staff from health and social care, sociology and PE.
 
Yet every day we're surrounded by issues that require us to look at events from the perspective of others – a key skill that you learn through RE. But because of the way RE is treated, the subject is often seen as irrelevant.
 
"Why do we have to learn this?" we whined in every subject within ten minutes of starting the lesson, "what use will this be in the real world?"
While other subjects were staunchly defended at school, RE was always seen as a tertiary subject. The maths teacher told us that it taught us to think logically; to use a step-by-step approach in working through problems. The geography teacher would insist his subject was useful: his lessons increased our understanding of global warming and the impact of our consumerism on the planet.
 
But from RE, we never had an answer. "Because the school says it's compulsory" was the closest we ever got. One teacher even shrugged in response to the question at my school. All this despite the fact that RE lessons were probably the closest we ever came to understanding the ideas that shaped our world.
 
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Scots secularists bid to curb Churches’ role in education

January 15th, 2014 Jill Posted in Education, Faith Comments Off

From The Christian Institute

A Scottish secularist pressure group has called on the Government to remove religious representatives from education committees, during a session in Holyrood today.

But the Kirk has criticised the move, saying it was the Church of Scotland which helped to establish universal education, and that its representatives play a supportive role.

The Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) wants to see a change to the law, because under the Local Government Act 1973 local authority education committees are required to appoint three representatives from religious organisations.

These appointees – which should include one from the Church of Scotland, one from the Roman Catholic Church and a third from any other religious organisation – each have votes equal to elected councillors.

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Statism and Homeschooling Horrors

January 14th, 2014 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education Comments Off

by Bill Muehlenberg

Statists exalt in raw power, and delight in stripping away anything which stands between big government and the naked individual. Thus things like the church, or voluntary societies, or the family – often referred to as mediating structures – are targeted by the statists.

Complete control with no competing authority structures is part of the statist’s vision. Every aspect of life must be controlled by the all-encompassing state, whether it is entertainment, the media, the arts or education. Indeed, we find just this spelled out in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (written back in 1948).

It was a prophetic look at Big Government, and written when godless communism was providing a living example of all-consuming totalitarianism. And Big Brother’s Ministry of Truth was set up to control these very areas. Parental education is replaced by state education.

The state really becomes God: “At the apex of the pyramid comes Big Brother. Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful. Every success, every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue directly from his leadership and inspiration.”

Turning parent against child and child against parent is also part of how Big Brother maintains his iron grip on power. And we saw all that perfected under communism last century. Just think of the Stasi in East Germany for example. There can be no loyalties outside of the state.

No independent thinking can be tolerated. So whether in fiction or in real life, all totalitarian states seek total control. And taking over education is a key part of this. When the Marxists came to power they of course clamped down heavily on all education. The state must decide what is correct education, not the parent or the church.

Thus the Nazis banned homeschooling back in the thirties. Indeed, “one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.

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Primary school league tables 2013: faith schools ‘dominate official rankings’

December 12th, 2013 Jill Posted in Church of England, Education Comments Off

By Graeme Paton, Telegraph

Primary school league tables show that almost two-thirds of the top performers were faith schools, even though they make up just a third of all state primaries in England

Faith schools dominated new league tables in the three-Rs today despite claims that they boost results by effectively selecting bright pupils “by the backdoor”.

Official rankings published by the Department for Education showed that six-in-10 of the top performing primaries were Church of England, Roman Catholic or Jewish schools.

Faith schools – which make up just a third of primaries nationally – were significantly over-represented in the list of the schools that registered “perfect” results in the three-Rs, it was revealed.

The majority of top-performers were Anglican and Bowdon CofE primary in Altrincham was named as England’s second-best school.

But the disclosure is likely to renew the debate over the admissions policies used by faith schools which often prioritise believers over other local pupils.

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Religious education ‘being edged out of school timetables’ illegally

November 29th, 2013 Jill Posted in Children/Family, Education Comments Off

By Graeme Paton, Telegraph

A new study warns that schools are flouting the law by dropping religious education in a move that risks leaving pupils 'ill-prepared' to make sense of faith in later life

A third of comprehensives are breaking the law by dropping religious education lessons for teenagers, a new study has found.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils are missing out on RE because the subject is being “edged out” of timetables by government GCSE reforms, it was claimed.

Researchers found that the equivalent of 900 state secondaries were axing the subject between the age of 14 and 16 to find more time for other disciplines.

The disclosure sparked claims that pupils were "unable to respond to different views and beliefs in an informed, rational and insightful way".

It also emerged that schools were cutting the number of specialist RE teachers, placing lessons in the hands of untrained staff and steering pupils away from taking qualifications in the subject.

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Threat to Anglican education from Stonewall involvement in church schools

November 22nd, 2013 Jill Posted in Education, Gay Activism Comments Off

By Julian Mann

What will be the impact on Bible-believing teachers, pupils, and local clergy from the Church of England's astonishing decision to involve homosexualist lobby group Stonewall in its schools?

The news emerged at this week's General Synod in London. The CofE's Board of Education is going to work with Stonewall to draw up new teaching material to combat a perceived problem of 'homophobic bullying' in church schools.

The Board's chairman the Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford, revealed the Stonewall involvement in answer to a Synod member's question. At July's Synod in York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, had flagged up the possibility of an anti-homophobic bullying drive in church schools.

He said:

The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it and sometimes they look at us and see what they don't like. With nearly a million children educated in our schools we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying but we must also take action. We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can find anywhere, that specifically targets such bullying.

Now it is clear that senior Anglicans consider Stonewall to be the best source of advice on how to target homophobic 'stereotyping and bullying' in church schools, the majority of which educate children of primary school age.

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Synod affirms CofE’s crucial involvement with schools

November 20th, 2013 Jill Posted in Education Comments Off

"The responsibility for school effectiveness is shifting to those who provide schools – that's us," said the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, chair of the CofE's Board of Education, in today's debate on church schools.
 
Church schools develop children spiritually as well as academically and emotionally, he said. "In order to do that it's vitally important that they're equipped to be able to engage with religious faith and practice.
 
"You can't understand the modern world without understanding what motivates 75% of the world's population."
 
The Bishop referred to newly published statistics, which show that 81 per cent of CofE primary schools, and 76 per cent of C of E secondary schools, are rated "Good" or "Outstanding" by OFSTED -which is above the average for non-C of E schools by three per cent and four per cent. Read latest stats.
 
After a wide-ranging debate Synod approved a motion affirming the crucial importance of the CofE's engagement with schools for its contribution to the common good and to its spiritual and numerical growth while committing itself to the following actions:
 
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