Church plans to use schools to drive conversion of children
Posted: Tue, 4th Jul 2023
The Church of England has unveiled plans to use schools to drive recruitment of children and young people to Christianity.
In a document published on Friday, the Church said "courageous structural shifts in thinking and practice in education" will "contribute to the Church's vision to double the number of children and young people who are active Christian disciples by 2030".
The Church, which is embroiled in safeguarding scandals, has seen a dramatic decrease in membership, particularly among young people. The 2019 British Social Attitudes survey found just one per cent of 18-24 year olds in Britain belong to the CofE. Overall, less than 1% of adults in England regularly attend CofE services.
Education "central to the mission of the wider diocese"
The document recommends government leaders "further deepen the mutual partnership between church and state, at national, regional and local level, to enable the ongoing flourishing of church schools for coming generations".
It calls for dioceses to "provide an ambitious and expansive vision" for the role of the Church in education. This includes "the creation of new models of church in schools, which provide opportunities for children and adults to develop their journey of faith, through well planned pathways to discipleship".
"By creating and embedding strategic partnerships between churches and schools across the diocese, children, young people and their families can have the opportunity to grow in faith," it says.
The document says the Church's vision for education is "not just for Church schools" and that the Church will "continue to embrace vibrant partnerships with all major education institutions".
It adds that the Church "has a particular responsibility" to "safeguard the distinctive vision of its schools".
It also says school trust leaders should "celebrate equity, diversity, belonging, inclusion and justice". But many Church of England schools' admissions policies discriminate against children whose families do not belong to the Church. Research in 217 found one in four dioceses advise their schools to reserve some places on faith grounds. In 2013, the Fair Admissions Campaign found Church of England comprehensives whose admissions criteria allow full selection of faith admit 35% fewer children eligible for free school meals.
Last month the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urged the UK to repeal compulsory collective worship laws and end the religious selection practised in faith schools.
NSS: 'Church regards our schools as mission fields'
National Secular Society head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "The Church has made it clear that it regards our education system as a mission field. Its latest plans reveal it wants to cynically use the state education system, which citizens of all faiths and beliefs pay for, to boost its plunging membership figures.
"Its desire to form even deeper links to the state can only further undermine secular democracy.
"These plans are highly inappropriate in such a diverse society, where Christians are now a minority.
"The government should stop giving the Church a free hand to pursue its own self-serving agenda in publicly funded schools. The purpose of such schools should be to educate, rather than inculcate pupils into a particular faith.
"And it should work separate Church and state rather than further entrench these ties."