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CHURCH SCHOOLS IN 'INCLUSIVE' VOW

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Johnson welcomes action by faith leaders to extend choice and support community cohesion ...
Johnson welcomes action by faith leaders to extend choice and support community cohesion

Education Secretary Alan Johnson welcomed today's announcement that the Church of England will make available at least a quarter of places in its new schools to non-church families.

The new commitment will ensure a proportion of places in new Church of England schools is open to families of other faiths and no faith if there is demand for them.

In addition, the Roman Catholic Church has said it will revise its inspection frameworks to ensure the contribution Catholic schools and colleges make to social cohesion is fully reported upon.

Both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches reaffirmed their commitment to social cohesion in an exchange of letters with the Education and Skills Secretary today.

Mr Johnson said:

'A good education is one of the best ways of building understanding of the many issues that unite us, as opposed to the few that divide.

We want to preserve the special contribution faith schools make to raising educational standards and offering choice.

'Church of England schools have an excellent record in providing high quality education and serving disadvantaged communities and Catholic schools are among the most ethnically and socially diverse in the country. Today's announcement by both Churches demonstrates an important commitment to community cohesion and high quality education for all.

'Good exam results are crucial for all schools and pupils but education is also about having the right ethos which encourages social responsibility, high aspirations, good citizenship and mutual understanding.'

Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth, said:

'The Church of England is strongly committed to providing schools that are distinctively Christian and at the same time inclusive.

'I want to make a specific commitment that all new Church of England schools should have at least 25% of places available to children with no requirement that they be from practising Christian families.'

Speaking for the Roman Catholic Church, Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Birmingham, said:

'We will revise our inspection frameworks to ensure that judgements about the contribution that Catholic schools and sixth form colleges make to social cohesion are placed in the public domain. We warmly support efforts by the Government and all faith groups to promote genuine inclusion in our society, particularly in some of the most deprived areas of the country.'

The revised frameworks will include information on the proportion of Catholics and minority ethnic groups in the Catholic school, the involvement of the school in the wider community, how the needs of non-Catholics are met, Citizenship education and other factors.

Today's announcements by the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches build on an announcement in February by the main religious leaders that children and young people in faith and community schools should be taught about all the major faiths and develop deeper understanding. Then Education Secretary Ruth Kelly welcomed the confirmation that all faith schools should offer a broad religious education and promote inclusion and tolerance.

Note

About a third of all mainstream state schools have a religious character and the vast majority of these are from the major Christian denominations. There are 4,646 Church of England and 2,041 Roman Catholic schools. Other faiths include: 37 Jewish, eight Muslim and two Sikh schools.

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