BHA: Michael Gove to work ‘to extend the role of the Church in the provision of schools’

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has said that he will work with the Chair of the Church of England’s Board of Education, Bishop of Oxford John Pritchard ‘to extend the role of the Church in the provision of schools.’

The statement came in response to a question in the House of Commons yesterday about the Church’s recent Chadwick Report, which set out ambitious expansion plans for the schools. Prior to publication of the report, Bishop Pritchard forecasted that 200 new Church schools will open over the next five years – four times the rate they opened over the previous decade.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has expressed disappointment at Mr Gove’s support for the report and the continuing rise in the number of ‘faith’ schools.

Tony Baldry, Conservative MP for Banbury and a Church Estates Commissioner, asked Mr Gove:

Has my right hon. Friend had the opportunity to read the report, chaired by Priscilla Chadwick, on the future of Church of England schools? Does he agree that the recent changes in education introduced by the Government provide opportunities for the continuing involvement of the Church of England in education, particularly in delivering distinctive and inclusive new academies?

Michael Gove replied:

I absolutely agree. Education on both sides of the border was driven in the first instance by the vigorous missionary activity of Churches, and we praise and cherish the role of the Church of England in making sure that children have an outstanding and inclusive education. I welcome the report, and I look forward to working with Bishop John Pritchard to extend the role of the Church in the provision of schools.

BHA Faith Schools Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘While unsurprising, it is disappointing to see for the first time a clear endorsement from Michael Gove for the Church of England’s new report, and their plans to keep opening “faith” schools. We hope that this cannot also be read as support for their aim to do so at four times the rate they have been doing up until now – a major acceleration.’

The question and answer mainly focussed on new ‘faith’ Academies, but the Church and other faith providers also continue to open Voluntary Aided schools outside of competition, ‘by the back door’. Mr Thompson continued, ‘Last week we announced that we are to take on a legal case against proposals to open two Catholic schools in Richmond upon Thames. We hope that if we are successful in this case, this may help slow the expansion in the number of religious schools.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read this week’s BHA eBulletin editorial, Challenging the rise of ‘faith’ schools:

Read The Church Schools of the Future Review:[1].pdf

Read the Sunday Times interview, Church to fight back with 200 new schools, 18 March 2012:

Read John Pritchard’s Sunday Times article, Here’s to another 200 years of top-class education, 18 March 2012:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools:

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief