During the general election in June, the Conservative Party pledged it would insist that schools run by the Church of England take half of their pupils from other denominations and faiths. Now it seems the government seems likely to rescind this promise.

It’s an oft-stated mantra of pressure groups such as the British Humanist Association that church schools spread division in society. It is a view held by Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of schools.

There are 4,700 Church of England Schools. One in four primary schools, and one in 16 secondary schools, is run by the church.

Some have enrollments of well over 50 percent of pupils from non-Christian backgrounds. At Paddington parish school near where I lived during the 1980s, there were almost 90 percent Muslims on the roll.

The Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales plan to open more free schools.  In submissions to the government, the Roman Catholic hierarchy said it would not open new state schools if it had to reserve half the places for children of other faiths. It said there was heavy demand for new parochial schools to cope with the influx of families from Eastern Europe.

Nigel Genders, chief education officer for the Church of England, said that if ministers dropped the admissions promise, the Church of England would still proceed with plans to open 40 free schools.

Church of England schools are in high demand because they offer first-rate education, and competition for places is stiff.

At Twyford Church of England High School, the annual intake is 190:

  • 150 are designated as Foundation (Christian) places
  • 21 are designated as World Faith places
  • 19 are designated as Music places

Twyford has played a leading part in setting up the William Perkin Church of England High School in a more culturally diverse area with an intake of 200, with 20 places reserved for pupils from a nearby church primary school.

For its part, the Church of England insists its schools “are not ‘faith schools’ for Christians but Christian schools for all.” Further, it says, it is “committed to serving the needs of the local community.”

John Martin

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