New church schools 'must benefit whole community'

The Methodist Church has welcomed Government plans to createmore church schools, but stressed new schools must benefit thewhole community in which they are built. The plans, outlined in anew Education White Paper, may lead to new Methodist sponsoredschools.

There is support from the Church for plans to boost RE andspiritual development in the classroom, under the White Paper,'Schools Achieving Success'. But there is also a warning that newefforts to support teachers must be robust enough to attract newteachers into the profession and keep them there.

The Methodist Church's Education Officer, Kathleen Wood, said:"As expected, the White Paper is closely related to the GreenPaper, Schools Building on Success, published earlier in the year.The Methodist Church responded to that document and is interestedto see the developments there have been since thatconsultation.

Ms Wood said: "We welcome the opportunity to engage indiscussion about a more flexible curriculum for students from 14 to19 years, and expect to contribute significantly to new ideas aboutreligious education and spiritual and moral development for thisage-group, as well as the broader plans to develop ŒEducation withCharacter¹. Methodist Church members and officers have wideexperience of the secondary and FE sectors and have been involvedin pioneering work in the development of a spirituality dimensionin the education of young adults. We believe we have much tooffer."

"Large numbers of Methodists exercise their Christian vocationin the teaching profession and in the various supporting roles inschools and colleges. We believe the White Paper proposals whichseek new ways to support teachers need to be looked at carefully,and to be made sufficiently robust to contribute to increasedrecruitment and retention for the profession. Similarly, ourexperience as a provider of Initial Teacher Training and ContinuingProfessional Development will command our interest in the proposalsfor change in these areas."

"A key issue in the White Paper is the proposed increaseddiversity in the secondary school sector, including more specialistschools and more schools promoted by the churches and other faithgroups. The Methodist Church will be seeking to ensure that thehighest standards of education are sought in all schools and forall pupils, and that diversity and specialism does not generateexclusivity."

"In its promotion of voluntary schools the Methodist Church isalways motivated by its impetus for service to the local community;nothing in the White Paper will change this. We shall continue tolook at opportunities for ecumenical co-operation in new churchschools on an individual basis; where appropriate, and consistentwith the policy of local churches and the Methodist ConferenceReport of 1997, it is possible that the numbers ofMethodist-sponsored schools will increase."

"In any event, the proposed alterations to local admissionsarrangements and the governance of schools will be of particularinterest to us, and we look forward to exploring the details in thedocumentation accompanying the White Paper."