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Bishop of Oxford welcomes report by think-tank Theos on faith schools

Bishop John Pritchard , Chair of the Church of England's Education Board, has welcomed the publication of "More than an Educated Guess: Assessing the evidence",  a new report published on 30 September 2013 by the think tank Theos  about the social and educational impact of faith schools  in England.

Bishop Pritchard said:

"The Church of England emphasises that our schools are inclusive as well as effective and distinctive, and I am pleased to see that this report recognises two very important facts. The first is that faith schools contribute successfully to community cohesion; they are culturally diverse and there is no evidence that there is any social division on racial or ethnic grounds.

"The second important fact acknowledged in the Theos report is that faith schools do not intentionally filter or skew admissions in a way which is designed to manipulate the system.  But church schools differ from faith schools more generally, as they have always been there first and foremost to serve their local communities.

"The report rightly recognises the complexity of the situation and cautions against drawing simplistic conclusions, but affirms that faith schools' admissions policies are clear, transparent and fair. Attendance of a church is the only basis upon which objective assessment can be made, but this is an activity entirely open to all irrespective of wealth or background. Nevertheless, we are still left with some challenging questions about how we can ensure that pupils from less privileged backgrounds are fairly represented in the school's intake. But, as the report makes clear, this is a problem throughout any system which espouses parental choice, it is not peculiar to faith schools. Any oversubscribed school faces the same issues, not least because of the link between the popularity of a school and the value of housing in its catchment area."

"One conclusion might be that, rather than continually adopting the 'battleground' approach, which often leads to a reticence on the part of local authorities to expand faith school provision, a better way would be to celebrate the quality, popularity and success of faith schools and seek to expand them. This way the problems of oversubscription and resulting admissions criteria would be greatly reduced."

"Such an approach would refocus the debate to make it more about the philosophy of education and the place of ethos, values, virtue, character and spirituality in the development of a successful school system. It may not attract the sensational headlines of some of the more familiar debates, but I suggest it would serve our children well."