Memorandum submitted by the Church of England Education Division

 

 

Summary

 

Brief outline of the core Christian beliefs about human kind

The mission and role of the Church of England in education

The organisation and broad strategy of the Education Division

Brief history of the Church's role in the development of mass education in England

Details of the reasons for the Education Division making a submission to the review

Concerns about the conduct of the review

Response to the final report to the Secretary of State

Reaction to the Education Division's submission

Conclusion

 

Introduction

 

1 At the heart of the Christian faith are three unshakable convictions about the nature and destiny of human kind:

All are created in the image of God

All are created in relationship with God and with each other

All are fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God

2 The Church of England believes that each child is a unique human being, made in the image of God and loved by Him, therefore the Church has a special duty of care to all children and young people.

3 The Church of England's commitment to education - both in its own and in other institutions - and parish-based lifelong learning, and its interest in the quality of educational experience for all learners is focused at national level through the Education Division. The task of the Division is to sustain and advance the Church's work in education, lifelong learning and discipleship.

4 The Education Division's mission is to promote education and learning that nurtures people within the church and community; encourages all people's vocation and participation; equips those engaged in all forms of service; and provides opportunities of the highest quality.

5 Under the Chief Education Officer, the nine officers and five support staff are organised in three teams reflecting the objectives of the Division:

Life-Long Learning Team: supporting issues of chaplaincy and values in Further and Higher Education

Schools Strategy Team: all aspects of church schools; Religious Education and collective worship in all schools; independent schools; church universities and colleges

Training and Development Team: the Church's work among children and young people, lay discipleship and shared ministry

6 The Division develops the Church of England's educational policy in relation to Government and its agencies and in relation to its ecumenical and other partners. [1]Going4Growth, the Division's strategy for children and young people lays out how this governs the work we do and the way we do it.

7 More than 1.5m children and young people are in regular contact with the Church of England either formally in schools or in informal educational settings.

8 The Church of England through the National Society, founded in 1811, pioneered elementary education in the first half of the nineteenth century. Between 1811 and the first national Census in 1851, the Church of England established some 17,000 schools with a view to 'educating the children of the poor in the principles of the Established Church'. State provision for education did not begin until the Education Act 1870.

9 Today, there are over 4,700 Church of England maintained schools. They reflect the distinctive Anglican tradition of being the Church for the whole nation and embody a commitment to make a positive contribution to modern society in all its complexity and diversity from a distinctively Christian standpoint. Church of England schools have a concern both to nurture Christian children in their faith and to serve the wider community of which they are part.

 

Independent Review of home education: Education Division submission

 

10 On 19 January 2009, the Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, the Revd Janina Ainsworth, received an email from the DCSF Policy and Performance Division announcing that the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families had commissioned an independent review of home education.

11 The review would investigate if and how far children who are educated at home are able to achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes; assess the effectiveness of current arrangements for ensuring their safety, welfare and education; and, if necessary, make recommendations for improvements to the current systems.

12 The email went on to state that "It is crucial that the review gathers the full spectrum of views on this important issue and, with that in mind, I would invite you to consider completing a short questionnaire about the issues by Friday 20th February. " This left only one month to prepare a response.

13 The Education Division submitted its written response to the DCSF on 20 February 2009.[2] The response was written from the specific perspective of our convictions and our mission, as stated in paragraphs 1 and 2 above: the absolute value of each child, the importance of relationships and the Church's duty of care to all children and young people, and our concern for their spiritual development

14 On 2 June, an email, headed Confidential and with High Importance, was sent by the Policy and Performance Division of the DCSF asking for permission to quote part of our submission in the final review. Due to officers' annual leave, the email was not read until 8 June. The three paragraphs requested expressed our concern:

14.1 "that children and young people not in formal education are missing the benefits and challenges of learning in community with their peers. Children who do not go to school may not experience the social and cultural diversity encountered there; they will not learn how to deal with the rough and tumble of everyday life; they may never meet people with different faith and value systems. All such encounters, even the difficult or painful ones are enriching.

14.2 We are concerned not only with the five Every Child Matters outcomes, but also with the spiritual well-being of all children and young people. Spiritual well-being arises not only from being cared for in a loving family and/or faith community, but also in encounters with people of different opinions and backgrounds; in learning to listen to a variety of opinions; to encounter diversity and the riches and life-enhancement it can bring. Spiritual well-being depends on living and taking a full art in community life.

14.3 Children and young people in schools learn about, and from, the five major religions. This may be a difficult part of the curriculum for home educators to provide, yet it is vital for the Government's community cohesion agenda that all children learn in a balanced way about the variety of religious values and practices, and to be encouraged to question their own beliefs and practices".

15 Officers in the Division were not given sight of the draft review before permission was given to use the quotation. The email mentioned above noted: "I'm afraid I can't share the full report with you at this time". No reasons were given for this. The report was due to go to the printers on the afternoon of 8 June, the same day that the email was read.

16 A final copy of the review was emailed to us on 11 June 2009 by the DCSF. The Education Division received emails from several home educators querying the quote from our submission used in the Review before we received our emailed copy.

17 Despite being invited to make a submission to the Review, we note that the Church of England Education Division is not mentioned in the list of consultees in Annex B of the final report.

 

 

The conduct of the Review

 

18 As stated previously, as consultees, the Education Division was given a month to discuss and prepare its response. The core business of the Division is supporting Church schools and children's and young peoples' work in parishes. We sent a submission to the Review because we were invited to do so. Officers were only able to meet once during that month to formulate the response, because of pressure on diaries.

19 We felt that although this was a review and not a consultation, there should have been more time allowed to submit responses. Standard Government practice is for a twelve week consultation period. The whole Review was expected to be carried out over only four months, which is a very short time. We decided not to use the questionnaire because the questions were designed specifically for organisations and families more deeply involved in home education. Answers we would have given would have added nothing to the information Mr Badman needed to compile his Review.

20 We felt that the terms of reference of the Review were too heavily weighted towards monitoring and the perception of barriers to monitoring. There was an insistence that the Government's five Every Child Matters outcomes are the most important for children. This seems to contradict the Children's Plan mantra that it is 'Parents not Government that bring up children.' For Home Educating families, these may not be the most important or valuable outcomes.

21 The premise that things need to be improved, changed, monitored and that children who are home educated and their parents must conform to Government's agenda for school-educated children pervades the whole of this review. It appears that the Review has been written to concur with the view that there should be more regulation and legislation, despite having received many submissions sent in to the Review by home educators.

22 Our submission was written to express the views of the Church of England Education Division, and was generally supportive of home educators. Some correspondence from Church families who are home educators helped inform our thinking. However, we stand by the paragraphs quoted in the report, even though they were taken out of the context of our whole submission.

23 We regret however, that the paragraphs were used to support what appeared to be the predetermined outcome of the report, given the terms of reference.

 

Education Division response to the Final Report

 

24 Our submission was, naturally, designed to be read as a whole, but following the publication of Graham Badman's report, officers in the Education Division were disappointed with the impression left by the selective use of our submission.

25 We are concerned that the quotation from our submission used in the report appeared to have been selected to support the terms of reference of the review, which, whilst acknowledging that parents have a well-established right to educate their children at home and indicating that the Government had no plans to change that position, appeared overly concerned with the possibility of home educating being a cover for abuse, barriers to safeguarding responsibilities and possible changes to the regime of monitoring and support of LAs.

26 In fact, we specifically stated that in making prevention of abuse under the cover of home education the main reason for the Review has the effect of tarnishing the reputation of the many parents who choose to home education their children from the best of motives.

 

Reactions to the Education Division's submission

 

27 The Education Division received a great deal of correspondence from Home Educators following publication of the Review. Many of the correspondents who were Church goers were understandably upset that the Church appeared to be condoning the results of the review and felt let down by the Church. This was never our intention: we were concerned that the spiritual development of some home educated children, particularly those in families with no faith background, might not be exposed to sufficient understanding of the beliefs of the major faith groups in England to enable them to understand the multi faith communities that most people now inhabit.

28 Many home educators contacted the Church of England Education Division to express their anger that our submission appeared to agree with Graham Badman's conclusions.

29 The full response from the Education Division was put on the Church of England web site and the National Society web site in order to reassure home educators that the quotation used was not the main thrust of our response. This action did reassure our correspondents to some extent and we subsequently received some letters and emails in support.

 

Conclusion

 

30 We stand by our views as quoted in the Review, but we also draw attention to the whole of our response which was supportive of the majority of parents as being the best people to decide what is appropriate and best for their children.

31 The Review appears to us to have done nothing to remove the suspicion that home education may be a cover for child abuse.

32 Having read the Review, we still stand by the final paragraph of our response:

32.1 "We have seen no evidence to show that the majority of home educated children do not achieve the five Every Child Matters outcomes, and are therefore not convinced of the need to change the current system of monitoring the standard of home education. Where there are particular concerns about the children in a home-educating this should be a matter for Children's Services."

September 2009



[1] Going4 Growth, adopted by the Church of England Board of Education, April 2009

[2] Copy attached for information. [Not published.]