Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Church of England Archbishops Council
1. The religious settlement arrived at in
the 1944 Education Act guaranteed to the partners in the
Dual System who recommended voluntary aided status for their schools
control over their admissions policy. This was in order that the
original trust in relation to those schools, which in most cases
identified the religious character of the schools and therefore
the religious community for whom the provision was intended, might
2. The Church of England has always recognised
the two-fold focus of its schools, intended both for those who
profess allegiance to the Church of England and also for the wider
community desiring an education founded on and carried out in
accordance with Christian values. In both those contexts the power
to admit children from families sharing the religious foundation
of the school is both logical and necessary.
3. The Dearing Report The Way Ahead (2001)
addressed this issue on behalf of the Church of England and concluded
that a mix of intake was necessary. There should continue to be
a core of children from practising Christian families in order
that the ethos and worship derived from the Anglican and wider
Christian traditions is strengthened through parental support.
4. We do not believe there is any justification
for treating Church of England schools differently from schools
provided by the minority faiths. While the Church of England has
a broader conception of the purpose if its schools, consistent
with its position as the Established Church, for precisely that
reason the exemption must remain. The religious foundation of
the school is in greater danger of being weakened where a broader
admissions policy is in place. The support of committed Christian
parents must be assured through identifying places allocated on
the basis of faith.
5. It is quite clear in the 2008 School
Admissions Code that an individual school cannot define their
own religion. The Code refers to the relevant religious authority,
which in the case of the Church of England is the relevant Diocesan
Board of Education, by virtue of the statutory role outlined in
the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991.
6. The provisions regarding collective worship
are to be understood in relation to the origins of the statutory
education system in this country. The first providers of mass
education were the Christian churches at the beginning of the
19th century. The entry of the State into public education in
1870 was, in the first instance, an acknowledgement that
voluntary provision could not keep pace with growing need. Schools
funded entirely from the public purse were provided to fill the
gaps in voluntary provision. As such there was a significant consistency
of approach, which included a carry over of basic assumptions
about the nature and purposes of the curriculum.
7. In particular the contribution to children's
spiritual and moral development in the new Board schools was seen
in exactly the same terms as in the voluntary schools provided
by the churches, expressed in the requirements for compulsory
religious education and collective worship. Both these were seen
in Christian terms, albeit newly defined in a non-denominational
way. The withdrawal clauses allowed those parents who had conscientious
objections to either of those activities to remove their children
from those classes and from collective worship.
8. The withdrawal clauses still adequately
provide for those who do not wish their children to be part of
the daily act of collective worship. The fact that parents rarely
avail themselves of them indicates that the requirements are understood
and carried out in a way which is not considered offensive. Many
schools moreover testify to the positive impact of worship as
they interpret the requirement in providing a spiritual focus
for their school community, and as capable, within the definition
of "broadly Christian", of acknowledging the beliefs
of all members of the school community.
9. Permitting pupils who are not in the
sixth form but who are of "sufficient age and maturity"
to withdraw on their own authority from collective worship would
create the need for sophisticated and invidious procedures in
order to determine whether they were in fact of "sufficient
age and maturity". How a suitable definition of maturity
might be reached, and by whom, is not clear. The additional burden
on schools to apply the resulting tests would not be welcome.
10. Where a school believes that the requirement
for "broadly Christian" worship is inappropriate to
their community it may apply to the Standing Advisory Council
for Religious Education for a "determination". This
allows for the Christian basis to be replaced by some other religious
basis more in keeping with the needs of the community. In practice
this is rarely invoked though all Authorities have a process in
place to enable this top happen.
11. The membership of Standing Advisory
Councils of Religious Education is outlined in Circular 1/94,
which specifies the representative character of each committee
of the Council. Their function is to represent all those groups
with a relevant interest in the content of the Religious Education
syllabus to be taught in the community and voluntary controlled
schools within the Authority.
12. The four Committees represent the interests
of the faith communities, the Church of England, the teachers'
associations and the local authority. As such it is necessary
that the members not only are members of the specified groups
but also authorised in some way to represent them.