Community school enters into partnership with Church

A community school in Blackpool has entered into a partnership with the Church in a move likely to lead to further encroachment of religion into the school.

The Bishop of Blackburn was amongst the guests at the launch of the affiliation between a non-religious school in Lancashire and the Diocese of Blackburn

The seemingly unprecedented partnership has been signed by Bispham High School and Arts College and the Blackburn Diocese. The two have pledged to share best practice ideas alongside conferences, seminars and arts events.

The local church has already been invited into the school to take assemblies and the college gospel choir and the church choir have merged for performances.

Margaret Singleton, head teacher at Bispham High, said: “Working closer together seemed the next natural step.

“I really want the school to have a sense of family and to work with the values of respect and tolerance. In a way, our values so closely mirror Christian values.”

Fred Kershaw, acting head of education at the Blackburn Diocese welcomed the new partnership saying, “We feel this is a great opportunity for a wonderful relationship that church schools and community schools can have together.”

In a recent speech to mark the 200th anniversary of the Church of England’s National Society of schools founded as “The National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church”, the Archbishop of Canterbury said there had been interest from “many, many” non-religious community schools that want to affiliate with the CofE.

Stephen Evans, National Secular Society Campaigns Manager, said: “Given that a third of all schools in England are “faith schools”, it is vitally important that our community schools are not further influenced by religion. Non-religious parents are finding themselves increasingly marginalised by the prevalence of religion in our education system. Social attitudes in Britain have been heading in a secular direction for many decades so we need to find ways of reducing the role of religion in our schools – not increasing it. Permitting the church to increase its influence in education by ‘partnering’ community schools runs counter to these trends, is highly undesirable and must be challenged.”

Earlier this year the Bishop of Oxford predicted local education authorities would “wither on the vine” leaving the church to provide a range of services to community schools. The NSS warned then that non-religious schools could become beholden to church school administrators for assistance.

Also see: Keith Porteous Wood: Church expansionism into education must be challenged