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Church Schools Fact and Fiction

by Michael Ford last modified 22 Jun, 2016 10:17 AM

By the CofE's Director of Communications, 14 November 2013

The (erroneous) story in today’s Times Newspaper claiming that the Church of England ‘moving away’ from selecting school pupils based on religion was a creative piece of writing.

So creative in fact that the Lambeth Palace issued a statement correcting the story which reads: “In the course of a wide ranging interview for The Times today on the subject of tackling poverty, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked about the role of schools. He praised the work of church schools especially in areas of highest deprivation, and stressed the importance of home, family and excellent school leadership.”

The Archbishop himself douses the story in the Times with cold water by saying: “I fully support the current policy for schools to set their own admissions criteria, including the criterion of faith. Nothing in my wider comments to The Times on this subject should be seen as “revealing” any changes nor dissenting from current policy.’

So in the midst of this contested space it’s worth stating some of the facts on Church of England Schools.

  • There are two categories of Church of England schools, Voluntary Controlled (VC) and Voluntary Aided (VA) schools. These categories apply to both primary and secondary schools.
  • The majority of CofE schools are VC schools. 
  • There are 2,464 VC schools, 53% of all C of E schools. Voluntary Controlled Schools have their admissions governed and set by their local authority as with any other local authority school.
  • Just to repeat the Local Authority is responsible for admissions arrangements.
  • With regard to Voluntary Aided schools, there are 2077 VA schools, 46% of all C of E schools.
  • Voluntary Aided Schools are their own admissions authority. Annually they must decide on their admission arrangements. However, like all other authorities they are bound by the Schools Admission Code produced by the DofE, which is designed to produce fair and understandable admissions. The code permits Voluntary Aided schools to admit children on the grounds of the parents’ or the children’s’ practice of their faith and the details for this are decided by the governing body.

So just to be clear from the above, both Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled schools are bound by the Admissions Code from the DofE. In addition over half of Church of England schools are VC, where their admissions are governed and set by the local authority.

These facts are often overlooked by papers reporting on church schools, preferring the less factual and more emotive interpretation offered by groups such as the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society. But the facts, as shown above, tell a different story.

 - Arun Arora

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