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Church schools mark 200 years of free education

Date: 20 July 2011

Pupils from four Church of England schools and one affiliated school sang specially-commissioned songs at Guildford Cathedral in June to mark 200 years since the church began free education for all.

The concert, entitled Travelling On, served as preparation for the children, aged nine to 11, who will take part in a national bicentenary celebration at Westminster Abbey in October.

The music, a medley of familiar and traditional songs, was composed by Professor June Boyce-Tillman from the University of Winchester. Diocesan director of education Derek Holbird said: 'This world premier performance of Travelling On brought to life in a unique way the marvellous story of the birth of the church school movement, a movement that continues to have a huge impact on our nation's life, even after 200 years.'

'It was a privilege to bring together the exceptional talents of conductor, cathedral organist Katherine Dienes, and June Boyce-Tillman in order to give local children the opportunity of taking part in an unforgettable musical experience. The standing ovation was well deserved!'

Diocesan schools officer Heather Henderson explained the significance of the concert which was performed to over 400 people: 'The National Society was founded 200 years ago to build and staff schools for those who could not afford education. The Christian founders were deeply concerned about the fate of the population, including children, working in the factories, mills and mines of the newly-industrialised Britain.

'They had the ambitious aim of founding a church school in every parish. By 1851 - still 20 years before the state took any responsibility for education - there were 12,000 schools across England and Wales.

'Today nearly one in five primary school children are educated in Church of England primary schools and it's wonderful to have choirs from four of those schools, and an affiliated school, singing celebratory songs and marking the incredible legacy of those founders.'

'These children are leaving a legacy of their own too as after the national event in Westminster Abbey the music is being made available for all church schools throughout the country to use as they choose.'

The five schools, all invited to take part because of their strong music traditions, were: All Saints Junior (VA), Fleet, TheWeald Church of England Primary School (VA), Beare Green, Shawfield Primary (Affiliated), Ash, St Lawrence Primary (VA), Chobham and St Martins Junior (VA) Epsom.

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