The Education Policy Institute (EPI) published a report about ‘Faith Schools’ today, under the headline that such schools do little to improve attainment or social mobility. Clearly, there is a lot of data and information in their report which we will need to read carefully, but my initial response is to highlight three key facts:
- We are rightly proud of the high academic standards in Church of England schools. The measure the EPI has chosen to focus on is raw attainment at KS2 and GCSE, and yes, Church of England schools do perform better than non-church schools in both those measures. However, we do not think that raw attainment is the only measure to consider. We are more interested in the overall performance of the school measured by Ofsted, and our schools are more likely to be rated good and outstanding than non-Church schools, which is even more pleasing.
- Parents chose our schools for a mixture of reasons. The academic attainment and achievement is just one of those reasons – but what we are offering in Church of England education is a vision for education which is about the flourishing of every child. We are educating for wisdom, knowledge, skills, hope, aspiration, community, living well together, dignity and respect. Together, that ecology of education describes what we mean by flourishing which enables children and young people to have life in all its fullness and offers a much more rounded view of what our schools offer. Yes, academic rigour and achievement is a vital part (so we are proud of our results) but it is not the only part. We want excellence in education for everyone, everywhere.
- The Church of England has a long history of promoting social mobility. We established schools to serve the poor and disadvantaged. Demographics change and the introduction of parental choice in to the system inevitably means that the most actively mobile parents will do more and travel further to access the school of their choice, but where we can open new schools we continue to strive to serve local communities in areas of population growth. We have opened new schools and sponsored academies in some of the most disadvantaged and challenging areas of the country and we are looking to have a greater focus on special schools, alternative provision, vocational and technical education as we continue to serve the whole country. We have already made it clear that any proposed ‘lifting of the faith cap’ will not lead to a change of approach as our new schools will serve their local community.
This is a complex educational landscape and national generalisations cannot do justice to the incredible work going on in communities across the country as our schools continue to serve the common good. We want to do more and so continue to encourage schools and dioceses to be bold, expand and open new provision for those who most need the educational vision we are promoting.
With warmest greetings,
Rev’d Nigel Genders
Chief Education Officer
Church of England Education Office