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Shaping Our Future Together to 2030

Date: 03 November 2022

Change is the only constant in the world of education and despite the challenges of the recent pandemic and the two lockdown periods, our Church schools and academy trusts continue to serve our local communities by providing excellent education and pastoral care for the 21,000 children and young people in our diocese.

In fact, the pandemic illustrated the intrinsic value of our Church schools to their communities – most of our schools remained open during the lockdown periods, offering education to the children of key workers and taking meals to vulnerable families.

Over 200 years ago, the vision of the National Society was to create a Church of England in every parish with the clear purpose to offer access to free education with a commitment to develop the Christian character of the poorest children within these communities. Church schools are not ‘faith schools’ – they are schools with a designated religious character that exist for the benefit of their local community and are inclusive of people who have a Christian faith, another faith, or no stated religious faith at all. 

Today, there are over 4632 Church of England schools in this country and over 1 million children attend a Church of England school. Over a quarter of these schools have converted to academy status and joined one of 254 Church of England multi-academy trusts (MATs) which promote high quality education with a commitment to the flourishing of all children and young people as set out in the Church of England’s vision for education ‘Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good’ Christian, Serving the Common Good’. 

Parents recognise the additional dimension that our Church schools place on spiritual development and the Christian values our schools espouse. Church schools remain popular with parents seeking a holistic education for their children where every child is encouraged to live life in all its fullness. 

Every diocese has a Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) which has a statutory responsibility to promote religious education and oversee its Church schools and the DBE is the body which is responsible for developing education strategy and policy at the local level.

So, what does the future hold for Church of England education in this country?

The Department of Education (DFE) published a new White Paper ‘Opportunities for All’ in March 2022 which sets out the governments ambition for every school to become an academy and join a multi-academy trust by 2030.

Here in the Diocese of Guildford, the Diocesan Board of Education has been reviewing its position and has recently published its new academy academy strategy to guide the governing bodies of our Church schools as they seek to determine the strategic direction for their future.

Diocesan Director of Education, Canon Alex Tear said,

“It’s an exciting time in education as our Church schools emerge from the operational demands of the pandemic. The Diocese of Guildford is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for our Church of England schools and has embraced the ambition for its schools to become academies. The Diocesan Board of Education has reviewed its strategy with a focus on ensuring that there is enough capacity in the academy sector for every Church school which wishes to join a multi-academy trust in the next 7 years”

The strategy encourages Church schools to become academies by joining one of the existing Church MATs and through developing closer collaborations with other Church schools as a step towards joining a MAT.

Community schools are able to join Church MATs so they can continue to work closely with neighbouring schools and do not have change their community status to join these MATs. 

There are many challenges ahead, not least ensuring that some of the smallest schools in the Diocese are able to remain sustainable in the light of reducing school budgets and rising costs related to energy prices and staffing.

Bishop Jo Bailey Wells, Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education said.

“Our new academy strategy encourages our Church schools to seek the benefits of structural collaboration that joining a multi-academy trust brings so that children and young people can flourish. 

We want every Church school to be part of wider family of Church schools where there are greater opportunities for staff and pupils to work together beyond their own school and harness the power of collaboration” 

The Education team based at Church House, Guildford, are available to support governing bodies and school leaders as they begin to plan for the future, with the aim that our Church schools will continue to offer distinctive and inclusive education and serve our local communities for the next 200 years. 

More details of the academy strategy can be found on the Diocesan website here.

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