Alex Tear, Diocesan Director of Education, reflects upon the landscape of education and the new education strategy.
This week the Diocesan Board of Education publishes its new strategy which sets out its plans for the future direction and organisation of our Church schools and academies for the next five years until 2022.
The purpose of the strategy is to articulate a fresh vision and perspective for how the diocese intends to play a full role in the changing educational landscape and support its Church schools and academies transition to the school-led system.
"Church schools are not ‘faith schools for the faithful’ – they are Church schools that serve local communities"
Church of England schools were originally set up over 200 hundred years ago to serve the poor and the most disadvantaged within local communities, long before the State became involved in providing schools. Today, our core purpose in providing education in communities remains steadfast. Church schools are not ‘faith schools for the faithful’ – they are Church schools that serve local communities which include Christian families who live in those communities.
The Church of England has embraced the academies programme at a national and regional level. Most dioceses are already engaged in promoting their own diocesan run Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) for their Church schools and, where it is to the benefit of local collaborations of schools, dioceses have also embraced ‘Mixed MATs’ to allow Church and Community schools to work together in Trust arrangements.
Dioceses have invested their own resources (as well as using grants from the DFE) in helping to get these Mixed MATs started and these are often the catalyst for local conversations about bringing both types of schools together. Dioceses recognise the benefits of all types of schools working together – we don’t want our Church schools working in a bubble. That is why the majority of Church MATs have deliberately written into their Articles of Association the option for Community schools to join their Trusts.
The Church of England vision for education is about promoting ‘life in all its fullness’, excellent outcomes and academic rigour with a real commitment to providing children with a rounded education which provides them with hope, wisdom, dignity and a sense of belonging to a community. The Church wants all children to experience this ethos which allows children and young people to flourish and grow.
Our own mission strategy in Guildford Diocese, ‘Transforming Church, Transforming Lives’ places education at the heart of our mission as a diocese with a commitment to nurture all those involved in education; improving standards and developing the Christian ethos and values of our Church schools and academies.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether Community schools and Church of England schools should come together in ‘Mixed MATs’ in order to ensure that small, rural village schools can avoid closure due to the financial challenges facing some of these schools.
"The Church of England runs a quarter of all primary schools in this country and is committed to improving the outcomes for children in these schools"
There are protections for Community schools joining ‘Mixed MATs’ with Church Corporate bodies acting as Members. These protections include respecting the admissions arrangements, the teaching of Religious Education (through the local SACRE scheme) as well as the values and ethos of the Community schools which are mentioned explicitly in the objects of the Trust Articles.
Community schools do not become Church schools when they join Mixed MATs run by the Church nor should they. The Church of England does not want to land grab or empire build – it already runs a quarter of all primary schools in this country and is committed to improving the outcomes for children in these schools.
There is nothing that Community schools or their Governing Bodies need to worry or fear about joining a Mixed MAT with Church Corporate bodies – we mustn’t forget that these MATs have Boards of Directors who represent the schools within them, both Community and Church.
'Shaping the future', the diocesan new school organisation strategy includes recommendations to bring together:
- Church and Community schools to raise standards for children and young people who attend them
- Church and Community schools who share a vision about the ethos, values and type of education that they want their pupils to receive
- Church and Community schools to work in sustainable structures which encourage shared professional development, new models of leadership and ensures the future of village schools
All of these are possible and are already happening in Mixed MATs with Church Corporate Bodies serving as Members.
"We are determined to play our part in the school-led system and ensure that both our Church schools and Community schools can work together for the good of children and communities."
Our new strategy embraces the challenges of small schools, supports the planned, managed growth of our Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust, The Good Shepherd Trust and identifies areas of our diocese where we expect to support the growth of new Mixed MATs in the future.
We are determined to play our part in the school-led system and ensure that both our Church schools and Community schools can work together for the good of children and communities.
View 'Shaping the Future' - the diocesan new school organisation strategy.