Church of England schools

Janina Ainsworth

Religious Education in Church of England schools

Religious Education in Church of England schools

Quantity

Quantity

Over 4800 schools in England are Church of England schools. The greater proportion are primary schools and this represents about 25% of all state primary schools There are more than 220 secondary schools, of which over 40 are academies.

These schools are located within 43 Church of England dioceses around the country each of which has a Diocesan Board of Education. Under the terms of the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991 (No. 2) they are charged to ‘promote or assist in the promotion of religious education and religious worship in schools in the diocese and in the promotion of church schools in the diocese’.

Diocesan Directors of Education and their staff support all the church schools in relation to buildings, funding, inspection ad curriculum.

Types

Types

All Church of England schools welcome all pupils from their local neighbourhood, including members of other faiths. There are various categories of church school:

Voluntary aided:
  • the school building and site are owned by the church
  • a majority of the governors are appointed by the church
  • the teachers are appointed and employed by the governing body
  • the cost of repairs and capital projects is raised by the governing body with 90% grant from the Department for schools, children and families (DfE)
  • religious education and worship are distinctively Anglican
  • the governing body is the admissions authority
Voluntary controlled:
  • the school building and site are owned by the church
  • the church appoints governors, but there is no church majority on the governing body
  • the teachers are employed by the Local Authority
  • the LA funds repairs and capital projects
  • religious education follows the local agreed syllabus
  • the worship is Anglican
Foundation with an Anglican trust
  • the foundation owns the school
  • the governing body employs the staff and is the admissions authority
  • the church appoints a minority of governors
  • religious education follows an agreed syllabus
  • the worship is Anglican
There are in addition two main kinds of Church of England independent schools:

Academies designated as having Church of England character

  • academies are independent schools, owned by their trustees
  • governors employ the staff and are the admissions authority
  • the church appoints a minority of governors
  • religious education and worship are distinctively Anglican
  • set up capital is provided partly by the trustees
  • revenue, and continuing capital funding are provided by the DfE
  • no fees are charged.

Other independent schools: approximately 1,000 of the 1,300 fee-paying schools in England have a Church of England ethos.

Independent schools may also now be formally designated as having a Church of England character, in which case the powers of their governors will be broadly those of voluntary aided schools.

Fees are charged by these schools, but they offer scholarships of various kinds.

Support

Support

Church schools receive guidance, advice and support from many national and local bodies including Local Authorities, Diocesan Boards of Education and The National Society. The National Society exists to inform and encourage Church schools throughout England and Wales and to promote Christian education with national and local government and other national organisations. The National Society works in partnership with many government bodies (such as DfE, OFSTED, TTA, GTC, RE Council. It comprises a small staff team under the direction of the National Society Council. Strategic activities include:

  • the development and management of Section 48 inspections - the Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools (SIAS),
  • providing a national Church vision on education,
  • promoting the development of standards in and provision of schools
  • providing professional support for school advisers and officers working for Diocesan Boards of Education.
Curriculum aims

Curriculum aims

A church school aims to be distinctively Christian and inclusive to all children, young people and their families. Church schools follow the national statutory curriculum. Their distinctiveness lies in putting spiritual development at the heart of the curriculum, within a community rooted in Christian values. www.christianvalues4schools.co.uk/ provides a resource for exploring the values that underpin church schools.

Religious education

Religious education

The importance of religious education in all schools is stated in Religious Education in English schools: non statutory guidance 2010:

‘Religion and beliefs inform our values and are reflected in what we say and how we behave. RE is an important subject in itself, developing an individual’s knowledge and understanding of the religions and beliefs which form part of contemporary society. Religious education provokes challenging questions about the ultimate meaning and purpose of life, beliefs about God, the self and the nature of reality, issues of right and wrong, and what it means to be human. It can:

The Church of England has endorsed this framework and added:
‘Religious Education is not just an academic subject, but, lying at the very heart of the curriculum, has an important role in reflecting and conveying the distinctively Christian character of the school.’ It is expected that RE in church schools will help pupils to:

  • think theologically and explore the great questions of life and death, meaning and purpose;
  • reflect critically on the truth claims of Christian belief;
  • see how the truth of Christianity is relevant today and face the challenge of Jesus’ teaching in a pluralist and post modern society;
  • develop the skills to handle the Bible text;
  • recognise that faith is not based on a positive balance of probabilities but on commitment to a particular way of understanding God and the world;
  • respond in terms of beliefs, commitments and ways of living;
  • develop a sense of themselves as significant, unique and precious;
  • experience the breadth and variety of the Christian community;
  • engage in thoughtful dialogue with other faiths and traditions;
  • become active citizens, serving their neighbour;
  • find a reason for hope in a troubled world;
  • understand how religious faith can sustain them in difficult circumstances and in the face of opposition.

In Voluntary Aided church schools and Academies with a Church of England foundation RE is determined by the governors and in accordance with the provisions of the trust deed / Anglican designation.

Diocesan Boards of Education produce denominational schemes of work or syllabus guidance. VA church schools may be advised to use a locally agreed syllabus with additional denominational curriculum material. Christianity will be given prominence in diocesan syllabuses, in line with the foundation of the school, but other faiths will be taught as well. Enabling pupils to understand faith, both their own and other people’s is a primary aim of RE in church schools.

In voluntary controlled and foundation church schools RE is provided in accordance with the locally agreed syllabus.

Collective worship

Collective worship

In church schools the daily act of collective worship must reflect the traditions of the Church of England. That will usually mean the local vicar is regularly involved in worship, and, where governors decide it is appropriate, school eucharists (holy communion services) take place in the school or the church. Pupils and teachers value the special dimension worship brings to church school life. It aims to give pupils and teachers alike opportunity to:

  • express praise and thanksgiving to God
  • reflect on the attributes of God
  • reflect on the teachings of Christ
  • affirm Christian values and attitudes
  • share each other's joys and challenges
  • celebrate special times in the Christian calendar
  • foster respect and deepen spiritual awareness

Where the school includes pupils from other faith traditions the needs of those pupils are also included. Stories from other scriptures are included in worship and provision for specific religious observances (e.g. fasting) is made.

Inspection

Inspection

The governing body of church schools have a legal responsibility to ensure that the school is inspected under Section 48 of the Education Act 2005. This inspection evaluates the distinctiveness and effectiveness of the school as a church school. It is known as the Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools (SIAS) and asks four key questions:

  1. How well does the school, through its distinctive Christian character, meet the needs of all learners?
  2. What is the impact of collective worship on the school community?
  3. How effective is the Religious Education? (This only applies to VA schools)
  4. How effective are the leadership and management of the school as a church school?

The National Society provide the inspection framework and guidance for inspectors and schools. This includes a SIAS self evaluation toolkit for schools, training for inspectors and various guidance documents available from: www.natsoc.org.uk/siasdocuments/

Teachers

Teachers

Teachers of all religious beliefs and none are welcomed to work in any church school provided they will work within the school’s Christian ethos and distinctive church school character.

In a voluntary aided school the governing body is the employer of the school staff so the teacher's contract is with the governing body. It is their decision to specify for the head teacher, or other posts, whether they require them to be a practicing member of a Christian church.

In a voluntary controlled or foundation church school, the employer is the Local Education Authority. When appointing a head teacher the governors will need to be confident that a candidate is able and willing to maintain and develop the religious character of the school.

In a voluntary aided school it is a condition of teachers' employment that they attend and play a full part in the daily act of collective worship.

That legal requirement does not apply in a voluntary controlled or foundation school but worship there is still an important part of the ethos of the school which teachers are expected to value and support.

Diocesan Boards of Education support the induction and continuing professional development of those working in church schools through the publication of guidance, support visits and training courses. Details of these can be obtained from individual dioceses. www.natsoc.org.uk/dioceses/contact_diocese/