National Society

The National Society (the National Society for Promoting Religious Education) promotes and resources 4,664 Church of England and 172 Church in Wales schools. It does this by:

  • Negotiating with Government and other national agencies to maintain and develop the contribution of church schools to public education in England and Wales
  • Supporting and advising diocesan education teams on legal and technical, curriculum and ethos issues
  • Working closely with the Church of England Board of Education to contribute a Christian perspective to educational debate

The NS and the Board of Education collaborate with the Catholic Education Service and the Methodist Church, along with other Christian and faith education representatives to ensure that the role and needs of faith communities are represented in national debate. Read a brief history of the National Society, and a Heritage Project from Chichester Diocese looking at the impact of the National Society on children, teaching practices and communities over 200 years.

What we do

The National Society, together with the Church of England Board of Education works in 4 main areas

Engaging with National Institutions

  • Working with Government, the Department for Education, Ofsted and other national educational agencies to promote distinctive church school education
  • Seeking to influence educational  policy from a Christian perspective and as it affects church schools
  • Advising the General Synod of the Church of England and the Governing Body of the Church in Wales on educational matters and promoting the churches' policies
  • Producing, with the Catholic Education Service, model documentation for church schools converting to academy status
  • Response to the White Paper The importance of Teaching
  • Briefing speaker in the House of Lords debates on the Academy Act

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Growing the Mission of the Church

  • Increasing the number of church schools and academies to give more opportunity for families to choose a church school for their children
  • 80 Church of England Sponsored academies since 2003
  • 277 Converter academies since 2010
  • New Church of England primary schools in areas of population growth
  • Additional facilities in church schools e.g. Children's centres
  • Supporting church schools through the inspection of their Christian foundation
  • Investing in RE with policy statements and curriculum material

(Figures last updated November 2013)

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Professional support and challenge

  • Training for SIAMS inspectors
  • Developing school leadership, including validated courses in Anglican Universities and university colleges
  • Professional development for diocesan staff
  • Conferences for Church of England schools and academies
  • Policy documents and position statements

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Research and development

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The Christian churches were the first to provide mass education in England and Wales.

The National Society was founded in 1811 to provide schools for poor children.

The original name was 'The National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church'. The founders were deeply concerned about the fate of the population, including children, working in the factories, mills and mines of the newly industrialised Britain. They set up the Society to raise money to build schools and pay teachers.

These schools were to teach basic skills and also to provide for the moral and spiritual welfare of the children, by teaching them the 'National Religion' - Christianity as represented in the Church of England and Wales.

Their aim was to found a church school in every parish and by 1851 (still 20 years before the state took any responsibility for education) there were 12,000 schools across England and Wales.

Read more about Joshua Watson, one of the founders

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Teacher Training

As  a consequence of building schools the National Society became the first organisation to train teachers, first in the Central School in London, then through its own colleges and through supporting colleges founded by dioceses.

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Later the National Society took on the Sunday School Institute and entered the world of publishing educational resources: text books, exam syllabuses and prizes in Religious Education.

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