Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England shares his thoughts on the conference for Birmingham Church school heads last week:
Last week, I spoke at a conference for Birmingham Church school heads, chaired by the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart. The keynote address was given by the Archbishop of Canterbury who did not shy away from addressing the obvious educational elephant in the room: ‘Trojan Horse’.
“Our schools are schools with a religious character – something that can be obscured by broad brush language of ‘faith schools’. I’ll talk about church schools and ‘faith-based’ schools as a shorthand today, but I’m conscious of how important the language is that we use. And all that has been made particularly clear – the dangers of the language – by the way that commentary around ‘Trojan Horse’ has made it sound as if schools with a religious character are a problem. That’s simply not true and that fact seems to need a lot of repeating: no church schools or faith-based schools were caught up in ‘Trojan Horse’. We are the solution, not the problem. That needs saying really quite regularly.”
Archbishop Justin’s full speech can be read here http://bit.ly/10EJPN2
This commentary around ‘Trojan Horse’ has led to much discussion of the term ‘British values’. We recently submitted our views to the Government’s DfE consultation about including them in requirements for schools http://bit.ly/1zh84g7
We wholeheartedly support the idea of schools being required to promote the values of tolerance and respect for those coming at things from a different perspective. However, ‘British Values’ cannot be allowed to become a test or an assessment of whether somebody in a community is ‘safe’ or ‘loyal’. Indeed, the nature of ‘British values’ requires a much deeper public conversation around the country than has been possible over the summer. As church schools - a major stakeholder in the system – we need to find a way to ensure that the lived experience of the children and families in our schools is one that helps to build a stronger sense of the way in which shared values create stronger communities.
The ways we, as communities and a nation, develop the language and practices of equality, diversity, community and the individual have changed rapidly in recent years and we need to build confidence and coherence in the wake of changes that have been unsettling for many and remain in many ways unresolved.
But we won’t create that confidence by simply policing it through an ever increasing inspection regime, we’ll do it by ensuring that our whole vision for education is one focused on the formation of character for the transformation of the world.
The extremism thrives when religion is banished to dark corners:
* People feel alienated and rejected
* The public becomes suspicious
* A culture of fear and intimidation takes over
But much more importantly, if we reject all forms of religion from our schools, we are failing to prepare young people for the realities of life in a modern and globalised world.
Church schools are not, and never have been, about indoctrination or recruitment.
It would be easy to get the impression from coverage in the media, that this is some new initiative by the church to be involved in education, but of course the reality is that the Church of England started mass education more 200 years ago, by providing schools across the land, especially for the poor and disadvantaged, some 50 years before the state joined in.
And the public has great confidence in what Church of England schools provide. Parents know what they want for their children and they recognize, in the rounded, broad education that our schools provide, something special and attractive.
At the conference one head spoke passionately and said that as a result of the conference had been deeply encouraged by a Diocese and family of Church of England schools who are determined to work in partnership to bring communities together for the good of the children they serve.”
Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer, Church of England