Church schools are in danger under new plans that allow the Education Secretary to take over failing schools and put them in the hands of secular academy trusts, critics have warned.
The Education and Adoption Bill, currently in the House of Lords, requires Nicky Morgan to take charge of any school deemed ‘inadequate’ by schools’ regulator Ofsted.
But the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have warned that the religious ethos of their schools could be eroded or abandoned if they are turned into academies.
They are also concerned that their buildings and land could be seized by the state.
Colin Hopkins, the C of E Director of Education in the Diocese of Lichfield, said in a letter to Morgan that the Government sees church schools as a “relic of the past”.
He warned that schools with a religious ethos, comprising around one-third of primaries and secondaries in England, are under threat from the plans.
Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service, said: “One in 10 children in England goes to a Catholic school and we save the taxpayer millions of pounds through providing land and [the] managing of schools.”
The Christian Institute’s Director Colin Hart said: “I think Nicky Morgan is very nervous about defending schools with a religious ethos”.
“The plans make the judgment of Ofsted inspectors the trigger for her to take action.
“There have been examples of inspectors with a personal agenda downgrading schools with implausible judgments at odds with the schools’ exam results.
“Over the last 14 months, we are aware of at least eight schools where there has been inappropriate questioning of both pupils and staff, asking for their personal views on transsexual issues and same-sex marriage.
“Some pupils have reportedly even been asked about their own gender identity or sexual experience.
“We also don’t know why Ofsted inspection reports ignored bullying of Christian pupils by staff at some of the schools linked to the Trojan Horse allegations in Birmingham, or why Park View Academy was singled out for praise despite incidents going back to 1992.
“This all points to Ofsted’s lack of ability to enforce a consistent and fair approach to inspection in its workforce.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education spokesman claimed that on occasions where a particular diocese is unable to “bring about the required improvement”, the school would be joined to a “strong non-church sponsor” and its religious character would be protected.