Carey warns on church schools

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The Independent Online
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury last night criticised government plans to reduce the Church of England's control of its schools.

Dr George Carey told the General Synod that he feared a clash with the Government over proposed legislation, which would reduce the voting rights of church representatives on local education committees. The church lays great store by the value of a Christian ethos in its 5,000 schools.

Dr Carey said: "While the Government has been receptive to many of our views about education, there is I fear the possibility - I put it no higher - of some of the shine being taken off that understanding. As currently envisaged in the consultation document Modernising Local Government, the voice of the church could be weakened - and with it the ability to influence thinking on education - a development that would sit awkwardly alongside the current co-operative spirit."

The Church of England, which provides education for one in four primary pupils and one in 20 secondary pupils, is keen to expand its role. In so doing, it would be "fulfilling a crucial part of [its] mission to spread the gospel," Dr Carey said.

However, the Government appears to be moving in the opposite direction, reducing rather than increasing the church's influence. The consultation paper, published by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, does not fully recognise or guarantee the voting rights of church nominees at local level.

A spokesman for Mr Prescott denied that church nominees were being excluded from the decision-making process. In future they would sit on "scrutiny committees" which would give them a "more dynamic role", he said. "They will be able to account for and propose issues rather than merely be present on a body which sees through decisions already taken."

The synod voted in favour of setting up a commission to draft a future strategy for church schools.