In response to the report published yesterday by the Westminster Faith Debates, by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Revd Nigel Genders, said:
“Church of England Schools provide education for the whole community. This includes those of other faiths and those of no faith, as well as Christian families. Around one million pupils attend our schools every day, each receiving a high-quality education, and our approach to education remains extremely popular.
“The report from the Westminster Faith Debates continues an important conversation about religion and belief in schools, and the type of education we want for our children.
“The report recognises that in today’s world there is an increasing need for religious literacy. While the recommendations will need to be read in the light of the publication of the Commission on Religious Education’s report, expected in the autumn, we welcome the recognition of the importance of religious education in schools.
“The report raises the question of collective worship. Collective worship provides a vital opportunity for children to pause and reflect on the big questions of life and develop spiritually, and we are pleased to see a significant ground-shift in this revised report away from any call to abolish it, which would be to the detriment of children’s wellbeing.
“We have consistently argued that the issue of school admissions is complex in a system where parental choice is valued. There is an apparent contradiction in the Clarke/Woodhead report which promotes the right of parents to choose an education that is consistent with their faith, but suggests that schools move away from of any faith criteria in admissions processes to enable this. This seems a difficult square to circle and so the reason for calling for churches to remove all faith criteria is not clear.”