19 November 2007
The majority of those who do not see themselves as Christians
reject the idea that church schools create divisions between
different sections of society, a major survey released today has
found. Six out of ten non-Christians who feel that church schools
are different from other state schools also believe that church
schools give places to children of all backgrounds, and two-thirds
of the same group agree that Church of England schools provide a
broad and balanced education, the findings show.
The survey of more than 1,000 adults across the UK shows church
schools to be positively regarded by people of all faiths and none
for the ethos they promote within the learning environment. Of
those who agree that church schools are different to other state
- Eight in ten (80 per cent) agree that church schools help young
people develop a sense of right and wrong
- 76 per cent think that church schools help young people grow
into responsible members of society
- 76 per cent agree that they promote good behaviour and positive
- 78 per cent agree they have a caring approach to students.
The findings demonstrate that church schools are understood to
be distinctive: 45 per cent of those surveyed agree that Church of
England schools have clear differences from other state schools. As
a key part of this distinctive nature, 78 per cent of these
respondents see church schools as having a close relationship with
their local church.
In a significant development for those who question the role of
collective worship in schools, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of
those who agree that church schools are different said they think
that students benefit from attending Christian worship in church
schools - and four in ten (40 per cent) non-Christians agree.
The survey also presents a challenge to the Church to explain
more clearly how church schools approach the teaching of religious
studies. More than a third (35 per cent) of respondents who agree
that church schools are different to other schools said they
thought such schools "try and force their own opinions on children
rather than giving a balanced view of other religions or ideas" and
that church schools promote "narrow religious teaching".
While the majority of respondents (55 per cent) disagreed with
these statements, the Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England's
Chief Education Officer, adds: "These survey results are
surprising, given that all Religious Studies syllabuses used in
church schools require students to learn about at least the six
major world faiths. We are committed to giving all our students a
solid grounding in a range of faiths, to help all students engage
with issues of community cohesion, diversity and religious
understanding. That is why we support calls for the subject to be
integrated into the National Curriculum, to further enhance
standards of teaching and learning."
The survey of those who perceive differences between church
schools and other state schools also suggests that there is still
uncertainty about the fairness of admissions policies used by the
former, with 45 per cent of those surveyed agreeing that "rules on
admitting pupils to Church of England schools mean that children
from better off backgrounds are more likely to get in". However, 70
per cent of respondents to the same survey agreed that church
schools "give places to children of all backgrounds".
Both national and diocesan guidance on admissions policies
stress the importance of setting out simple, transparent criteria,
which - for 'faith places' - focus solely on church attendance. The
Church of England has consistently supported the ban on interviews
or the seeking of other information about the family during the
admissions process. "The impression that church schools are
socially selective when allocating places on faith criteria still
exists with a significant minority of the population, and all of us
involved in church education have a role in explaining clearly how
this simply isn't the case," argues Jan Ainsworth.
"It's encouraging that seven out of ten of those who see church
schools as distinctive are clear that we welcome students from a
range of backgrounds. The figures available do not bear out the
assumption that church schools are socially selective, but rather
they suggest that our schools represent the communities which they
serve. The proportion Church of England secondary schools places in
economically disadvantaged areas is exactly in line with the
national average. The proportion of Church of England primary
schools places in rural schools is over twice the national average
and this has a significant effect on national averages used to
monitor social diversity of school populations."
"There is nothing socially selective about suggesting that those
seeking a school place because of the importance they attach to
Christian faith should attend church regularly in order to
demonstrate that connection. Speaking bluntly, if parents are
opposed to attending worship it is difficult to see why they would
be seeking a place at a school with a Christian foundation and
ethos," Jan Ainsworth adds.
The survey results will boost the Church of England's ambitious
plans to open another 100 church secondary schools by 2011, mainly
through the academies programme and to serve areas of economic
disadvantage. In 2011, the National Society will celebrate its
200th anniversary - two hundred years since the Church effectively
launched free mass education in England and Wales.
Figures taken from ORB (Opinion Research Business) survey
of 1,002 adults aged 18+, interviews for which were conducted by
telephone on 26th and 27th September 2007. Of those interviewed 447
considered Church schools to be different to those run by local
authorities. All figures have been rounded to the nearest whole
percentage and the data have been weighted according to the age,
gender and socio-economic profile of GB.