On 13th October 2016 Baroness Andrews led a debate in the House of Lords “that this House takes note of the Government’s proposals for the extension of grammar schools and selection in education”. The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for securing this debate. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely, our lead bishop on education, cannot be in his place today, but I am glad to contribute from these Benches and to hear an excellent maiden speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Vere.
Like many others in your Lordships’ House, I attended a grammar school. I was also the first in my family to receive a university education. At Northampton Grammar School for Boys, as it then was, you imbibed an ethos and culture which simply assumed you would seek university entrance. My grammar school was hierarchical, full of petty rules and almost entirely male—the perfect preparation for a career in the Church of England. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich speaks on educational selection and grammar schools”
On the 14th April 2016 the Lord Shipley asked the Government what plans they have to make Regional Schools Commissioners democratically accountable. The Bishop of Coventry the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth asked a supplementary question about the factors Regional Schools Commissioners take into account when locating sponsors for a new school.
Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry questions Government about Regional Schools Commissioners”
On 28th January, Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty’s Government what are the conditions which must be met before a new state-funded faith school or free school is allowed to be established; who sets and agrees the conditions; and how the conditions must guarantee a broad and balanced curriculum for pupils. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, does the Minister agree that “faith school” covers a variety of different kinds of institution? Church of England schools are not faith schools in the narrow sense of providing an education for people of just one faith. In places such as Leicester they provide a rounded education for the whole community, including many of other faiths who value highly what they have to offer.
Lord Nash: I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate. Many church schools are highly inclusive. A study by the University of York undertaken in 2009 praised the record of church schools on community cohesion.
On 21st October 2014, Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to ensure a fair admissions policy in schools.” The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Rev Donald Allister, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: Will the Minister join me in congratulating the four latest Church of England free schools to be announced, which between them offer nearly 2,500 places to young people of all faiths and none, especially in areas of severe shortage? Continue reading “Minister congratulates CofE on new free schools in response to question from Bishop of Peterborough”
In the House of Lords on 14th May 2014, Baroness Jones of Whitchurch asked Her Majesty’s Government “what early intervention measures they are putting in place to reduce the educational and financial implications of failing free schools.” The Bishop of Oxford, who chairs the Church of England’s Board of Education, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, given that prevention is better than costly cure, can the Minister let us know what is being done to make sure that free schools are established as groups of interdependent schools, rather than independent and autonomous units? Can he let us know how what we have learnt from the academies programme—that we need to get schools grouped together in multi-academy trusts—is being transferred to free schools?
Lord Nash: The right reverend Prelate makes an extremely good point. Although it is true that a number of outstanding schools have been established entirely independently, the way forward is the school-to-school support model, with schools operating in local clusters and secondaries working with their primaries. We are taking this learning, which has been very successful in the academy movement, into the free schools movement.
On 31st October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question regarding free schools.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent concern about the Al-Madinah free school, what plans they have to provide a framework in which free schools should operate that reflects the expectations of parents and the Department for Education.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): The Department has already put in place such a framework, through the rigorous approval process for free school applications, the contractual funding agreement between the school and the Secretary of State for Education, the legislative requirements placed on academies and free schools through the Independent School Standards and, as for all schools, Ofsted inspections. Together, they provide the necessary checks and balances to ensure that free schools meet the high standards expected of them. Where those standards are not met, the framework enables us to take swift and decisive action.
On 30th October 2013, Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty’s Government whether free schools and faith schools will be required to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum which addresses the needs of all pupils. The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: Does the Minister agree that the use of the phrase “faith schools” can be profoundly unhelpful in the context of this discussion? Schools of a religious character come in many forms. Is it not true that the nearly 4,700 Church of England schools sit very firmly within the mainstream of English education, and that even C of E free schools and academies are linked to diocesan boards to ensure that the education that they provide is broad and balanced, academically challenging, personally inspiring and serving the needs of the whole local community?
Lord Nash: I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate. Faith schools are a long-established and highly valued part of our educational establishment, and church schools are, too. Church schools consistently outperform maintained schools; they are very popular and often highly oversubscribed. The applications procedures of many of them do not rely heavily on faith; they have a much wider intake.
On 29th October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question on accountability in free schools.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that there is a rigorous assessment of the leadership, aims and ethos of free schools.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): All free school applications undergo a rigorous assessment against a number of criteria. The areas covered include: the education vision and plan for the school, which will cover its proposed aims and ethos; and the capacity and capability of the applicant group, which covers the track record and expertise of the trust members and proposed governing body, as well as their plans for recruiting a high quality principal. We also carry out due diligence checks on the suitability and track record of key members of the proposer group. The assessment criteria for the next round of applications will be published on the Department’s website shortly.
Where an application is approved into the pre-opening phase, those leading the project work closely with a named lead contact and an education adviser from the Department. Where any concerns are reported, including about their leadership, aims or ethos, the matter is escalated and an early decision is taken on what action to take in response, which may include cancellation of the project.
On 17th October 2013, a Government Statement was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary State for Schools, Lord Nash, on the Al-Madinah Free School in Derby. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, responded to the statement during the subsequent question and answer session.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I declare an interest as the Bishop of Derby and congratulate the Minister and his colleagues on the monitoring and firm action that is being taken. As I understand it, this is a very local initiative. What lessons can be learnt because if we do not have the local authority playing a key role, how are we providing the right kind of framework and guidance for local initiatives so that the right kind of standards, structures and expectations are put in place and met? What are we learning and how are we going to deal with that?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his question. This is a local initiative, it is quite a complicated situation and I do not have time to go into all the details now, but I can assure the House that we are all over this and will not allow this situation to continue.