Church schools 'under attack', says bishop

Church schools must develop their distinctiveness in an “age of creeping scepticism about "religion", the Bishop of Oxford has said.

The Rt Rev John Pritchard made the call as he presented the “Church School of the Future” review to the Church of England General Synod, meeting in York.

The report outlines the challenges facing the Church school system, including the arrival of the academies programme and reduction in funding, as well as secularist attacks and threats to the teaching of Religious Education.

“Church schools are under suspicion or attack in many corners of society, from the House of Lords to the Accord Coalition,” he said.

“The pressure is on us but we have to deliver, not be defensive.”

The Church needs to make sure their schools are rooted in the Christian story “so that the spiritual core is ever more evidenced”, he continued.

There was a need for the Church to work more closely with other denominations and independent schools, and increase its structural support for all schools in parishes, not just church schools.

However, Bishop Pritchard remained positive about the “great opportunity” open to the Church “to serve the community and deepen our mission”.

He added that there was a need for a “culture change” within the Church to recognise the centrality of church schools in the Church’s mission to the nation.

“I want to convince you that if we miss the importance of this report, the Christian story is in danger of continuing to slide out of our cultural memory,” he said.

“But if we seize the moment, we could be embedding that story in the life of the nation in a way we haven’t been able to do for decades. I’d put it as strongly as that.”

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