The Adventist Review shares the following world news from Religion News Service as a service to readers. Opinions expressed in these reports do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Review or the Seventh-day Adventist Church. -- Editors

Britain Asks Church of England
to Take Over State Schools


BY TREVOR GRUNDY
                                                                                    
©2013 Religion News Service

Leading secularists are calling on nonreligious parents to fight a government effort that would allow the Church of England to run thousands of state schools.

The schools, or academies, would be privately funded, quasi-independent and accountable to the church for their curricula, organization, admission policies and teachers’ pay and conditions.

As of July, there were 3,049 such academies operating in England, many financed by businessmen, finance companies, supermarkets, football clubs and a growing number of faith-based organizations including the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and the largest of all — the Church of England.

Following a recent agreement between the Department of Education and the church, thousands more state-run schools could be taken over by the church.

Under this new undertaking, bishops would be given the power to appoint school governors — unpaid private citizens who volunteer to oversee the performance of educational institutions.
 
The Church of England — a pioneer in the field of education in the early days of the 19th century — already runs more than 5,000 schools, several hundred of them academies.

The church’s work bringing the gospel and “three R’s” (‘reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic) to impoverished working class children is well documented.
 
It was only in 1870 that the government accepted a responsibility for educating children here.

So the church’s educational track record is greatly admired as well as criticized by many secularists who say the days when Christian philanthropists gave their time and money to educate the poor should be a thing of the past.

“The Church of England is rapidly changing its focus from its primary purpose — church worship — which has failed spectacularly, with empty pews all over the country, to getting its message out in schools,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society.

He called on parents who might be uneasy with the new deal between government and church to “make their feelings known both to schools and, more importantly, politicians.”

Added Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood: “Nonreligious and religiously unconcerned families are now in the majority and this move will further alienate them from the education system. This will surreptitiously bring the education system under religious control. Once our schools have been taken over by religious interests, it will be almost impossible to ever bring them back under community control.”

Academies were set up under Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000.

While the governments of Blair, and now David Cameron, insist academies will raise standards throughout Britain and enable the country to catch up with its educational model state — Finland — there is also a belief that the present cash-strapped government is anxious to lessen its financial commitment to education by encouraging the formation of privately sponsored academies.

The Church of England insists that state schools that become academies under its control will lead to higher educational standards and not the Christian “indoctrination” of pupils that the National Secular Society fears.

Oxford Bishop John Pritchard, who oversees education policy within the Church of England, said he expects many small village primary schools, which educate children aged five to 11, will want to link up with the church academy chains.



 

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