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Schools: Church Schools

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 7 April 2010

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what factors they consider, in conjunction with local education authorities and diocesan representatives, in promoting and encouraging church schools. [HL3138]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what links they maintain with diocesan boards of education with regard to Church of England schools. [HL3141]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether there are any proposed closures, or consultations on potential closures, of Church of England schools, taking place in central Liverpool; and, if so, what is their position on the possibility of any closures. [HL3142]

The Government are not directly involved in individual decisions on making changes to local school provision, including promoting the establishment of new maintained schools and the closure of existing schools.

We acknowledge the long-standing tradition of church schools in this country and the significant contribution that they continue to make to our education system. We remain committed to supporting church schools where local consultation has shown that this is what parents and the local community want. We have regular contact with faith group national bodies, including the Education Division of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England which is invited to termly stakeholder meetings at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Its members then feed back any required information to their dioceses.

The role of diocesan boards of education is secured in law by the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 1991. This requires every diocese to have a Diocesan Board of Education and that its functions are to include, among other things, promoting education that is consistent with the faith and practice of the Church of England, promoting religious education and worship in schools in the diocese and promoting church schools in the diocese.

Where changes to local school provision are proposed a statutory process must be followed, which includes consultation with all those likely to be affected by the proposals. The process is decided at a local level under established decision-making arrangements, normally by the local authority. There are rights of appeal to the independent schools adjudicator in certain cases. In recognition of the importance of their schools to the education system, both the Church of England and Roman Catholic dioceses have a right of appeal in the majority of cases, even where church schools are not directly involved.

Our records show that St Margaret of Antioch Church of England Primary School has been approved under local decision-making arrangements for closure from 30 August 2010, and the displaced pupils will be accommodated at a local community primary school. We are not aware of any current consultations on potential school closures in the Liverpool area. However, under the statutory process any consultation would be a matter for either the local authority or the school concerned.