BHA: Church of England looks to being ‘largest sponsor and provider of secondary education’

Church of England looks to being ‘largest sponsor and provider of secondary education’ as BHA calls for dismantlement of the grip of Church on state

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that the government’s Academies programme presents an opportunity for the Church of England (CofE) to play an increasingly important role in state education, with the Church ‘quite conceivably [to] become the largest sponsor and provider of secondary education in this country.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA) has said that such a change would ‘surely lead to further societal division along religious lines’ and has called for dismantlement of the grip of the Church on the state.

The Archbishop made his comments on 22 September at the Anglican Academy and Secondary School Heads Conference, which was held on the theme of Church Schools and Academies: The next 200 years – A Christian Response to the World our Children will Lead, and they were reported for the first time today. His statements in large part alluded to the ‘atomisation’ of education providers caused by maintained schools moving out of local authority control and converting to independently run Academies. However, he also stated that there have already been ‘many, many’ community schools (which do not have a religious character) interested in becoming CofE schools upon conversion to an Academy, in order to ensure that they are not completely on their own but ‘have people to turn to in [moments of] crisis or pressure’. This summer saw Malton School, a community in North Yorkshire, become the first to propose such a change to both Academy and CofE status, and this is something the BHA has long warned is likely to become increasingly frequent.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Philips commented, ‘Rowan Williams has presented a frightening vision, given the CofE’s propensity to discriminate in admissions, in employment, and in the curriculum, and in forcing collective worship on children. If church schools are to become more prominent in the education system, this will surely lead to further societal division along religious lines, and social problems may well ensue.

‘In this day and age, we should be seeking ways to dismantle the grip of church on state, in order to ensure the equality of all citizens, regardless of religion or belief. We should not be entrenching further the power of the C of E or other religions in education or any other provision of public services.’