Church schools must robustly defend their Christian ethos amidst ‘concerted attacks’ from secularist campaigners, a new report by the Church of England has warned.
The Church also stressed that its schools must retain their Christian character in an increasingly fragmented education system.
The report says: “Church schools continue to be popular with parents and to have good reputations and high standards.
“Nevertheless, there continues to be a concerted attack on the core elements of the Church school identity.
“Most of the challenges and claims made are without foundation or are matters of principle on which disagreement is always possible.”
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, said: “Our schools are a gift to the nation. They have been serving communities for more than 200 years and our schools are very popular with parents.
“But the report is clear that we must be careful to protect their distinctive nature, especially amid pressure from groups who would prefer that we were not involved in education at all.”
And Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “It is important for the nation that we retain their distinctive character and we are working closely with Government to ensure they continue to thrive.”
The Church of England is responsible for educating more than one million pupils in over 4,800 primary and secondary schools. It hopes to create 200 more over the next five years.
The report was based on evidence from dioceses, school leaders, politicians and other stakeholders with an interest in education.
In 2008 Revd Janina Ainsworth, the Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, defended faith schools saying: “Some seem to believe that the Christian ethos, which is so valued by parents, is like a sort of magic dust that is sprinkled on church schools simply by association.
“But it is, in fact, achieved through the hard work of staff and governors in building a learning community that is underpinned with Christian values.”