New Vision sets out Church of England aims for engagement with Further Education Colleges

29/04/2021

The Church of England has launched a new Vision for Further Education, which calls for a major shift in its engagement with the sector. 
Two female students study in a library over a laptop

The report, Vocation, Transformation & Hope, highlights three themes, exploring how FE makes a significant difference to people’s sense of vocation, their personal transformation, and their hope for society. The high-quality skill-based education of FE is also the basis for the future development of our economy including the new technology sector and emerging services industries. 
 
The Report notes that there are almost 2.2 million students enrolled in 168 FE Colleges, with nearly twice as many 16-18-year-olds as in school sixth-forms. The Church is nonetheless underrepresented in that sector, in contrast to its extensive links with schools and universities.  
 
It recommends that making effective partnerships with colleges should become a core part of the Church's own planning, together with developing support for students, for community links and for chaplaincy. FE Colleges are anchor institutions for the local community, bringing people together and enriching local life.

An FE chaplain with students outdoors

The vision therefore challenges the Church to reimagine its support for chaplaincy provision, one of the major ways in which it says that churches have reached out to staff and students, offering pastoral care, exploring issues of faith, belief and spirituality. Chaplains play a vital role in supporting student wellbeing and mental health and walking alongside those facing grief and loss. 

The report asks each diocese to look at how partnerships with local colleges can become part of its everyday thinking, exploring new collaborations and work together. It recommends that, at a national level, the Church considers the possibilities of forming a group of colleges as part of this wider collaboration.

Launching the new report, The Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin, the Church of England’s lead bishop for further and higher education, said:  
 
“Further education colleges transform the lives of individuals and train many of our nation’s essential workers. They are crucial anchor institutions for communities, they cradle innovation and success, and offer new opportunities and second chances.

A student uses a spirit level in a workshop

“We want to offer a positive vision of how the Church of England can contribute to the flourishing of further education and address our lack of systematic engagement in such an important part of our educational and social landscape. 
 
“Our vision for further education invites and challenges church leaders to see the sector in a new light, one in which God is already actively present. It encourages appreciation of the dynamic nature of the sector, its impact upon individual lives and its valuable contributions to society. 
 
“The vision encourages churches to affirm and speak up for those who work and learn within further education. It points to ways in which churches can take practical steps to make these aspirations a reality in a post-Covid world.

“I hope that through local diocesan engagement with FE colleges we can contribute to key issues in the sector such as mental health and wellbeing, develop lasting relationships between churches and colleges, and build a younger and more diverse church.”

The new report sits along alongside the Church of England’s visions for schools and higher education, Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good (2016) and Faith in Higher Education (2020). Together, they represent a restatement of the value the Church places on education at every level, inspired by Christian faith.

“We want to offer a positive vision of how the Church of England can contribute to the flourishing of further education and address our lack of systematic engagement in such an important part of our educational and social landscape. "

Bishop Tim Dakin