The rise and rise of the church school

The first state-maintained Hindu school opened this week in Edgware, north London. The Church of England is set to become the biggest sponsor of the Labour government’s “academy” programme.

Across the UK, there are now schools run by a range of faiths, especially at primary level. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic churches have the biggest stakes, but there are seven Muslim schools and over thirty Jewish schools. Education and religion seem to be intertwined.

Does this matter? After all, the Anglican and Catholic churches have long played an active role in establishing and managing schools in the UK.

Those for the growth in faith schools see them widening parental choice and driving up standards by taking the day-to-day management out of government’s hands. It has been claimed that children in a church school can be a year ahead of their peers in a community primary school.

Many see church schools as socially divisive. Not just by potentially “ghetto-ising” religious groups but also because many Anglican and Catholic church schools seem to take pupils from a mainly middle-class background, effectively making them selective.

What is apparent is that faith schools have support of both the government and the church communities that they serve.