Thursday, 17 September 2009

First review of church schools shows they outperform

Pupils at schools with a strong Christian ethos consistently achieve above the Wales average while parents value their spiritual dimension, a major review on education concludes.

The 168 Church in Wales schools – which have more than 20,000 pupils across Wales – are praised in the review for setting high academic standards and providing a supportive, nurturing environment in which children flourish.

The Education Review, which is the first undertaken by the Church in Wales into its schools, also challenges claims that faith-based education is selective. It found that almost 80% of Church in Wales schools serve the children in their locality without regard to their parents’ faith position. Of the remaining 20% the review found positive, mixed school communities, diverse in their intake and outlook.

The report is launched today at the Governing Body meeting of the Church in Wales at the University of Wales, Lampeter. It looks at all aspects of the Church in Wales’ involvement in education and schools, including religious education and collective worship.

Taking data from the Fischer Family Trust, used by the Welsh Government, it found that Church in Wales schools, as a group, perform strongly across Wales, with Key Stage 2 results in core subjects consistently above the average for Wales and showing strong ‘value added’.

The review also highlights the significant commitment of time and energy given by parish clergy across Wales, showing that three-quarters of them are involved in their local schools. It also emphasises the need for good Religious Education and for Collective Worship in all schools that is thoughtfully and carefully planned and presented. It gives clear recommendations for developing the expertise of teachers, support staff and parish clergy, to ensure their work in schools is most effective.

Welcoming the review, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said,

"This review clearly shows how schools with a strong Christian ethos nurture and encourage our children and help give them the best possible start in life. That is why Church in Wales schools are successful and why there is a strong demand for places at them. We commissioned the review because we are committed to education and want to continue working, alongside the Welsh Government, to ensure these high standards are maintained and as many pupils as possible are able to benefit."

The Review also shows that the Church in Wales is committed to every learner in Wales, not just those who attend a Church school, said the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, who is the Bishop with responsibility for education. He said,

“The Church in Wales believes in education. Not just Religious Education, or “Church School” education, but the best education possible for every citizen of Wales. We are committed because we believe that education is a fundamental way to help every individual develop and grow into the fullness of the person that God wants them to be: to meet the potential that God gives in every human life. The present education review is designed to focus the energy of the Church to serve the nation of Wales by supporting the highest standards of education.”

The Revd Edwin Counsell, Education Advisor for the Church in Wales, believes the Review Group’s report has come at a critical time:

“We have long felt that our schools are making a positive contribution to the learning and development of pupils; this report has, for the first time, started to measure that impact. The high performance of church schools is consistent, whether that is large schools or small schools, rural or urban. I am delighted that the hard work of teachers and support staff, governors and families and the excellent progress of pupils in Church schools has been recognised. This report shows that the Church in Wales is part of the education landscape of our nation; that we have a stake holding over time and a vision for the future. This is good news for the children and young people of Wales.”

The report considers the context of the Church in Wales’ education work with both local and national government and recognises that strong systems of pastoral care and the well-being of the whole child is central to achieving the high standards to which all are committed for our young people. Significant work to support pupils with additional learning needs is held in high regard by the Review Group.

The report sets out a five-year work programme for the Church in Wales to build on strong foundations and ensure that it continues to make a full contribution, through education, to the well being of children and young people across Wales. It recommends the Church in Wales develops a better Wales-wide strategy to support schools, increases provision through the medium of Welsh and engages more with young people in Further and Higher Education.

The Education Review will be launched today at the University of Wales, Lampeter, and will include a presentation from pupils at St John Baptist High School, Aberdare. It will be followed by a press conference with the Archbishop, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Rev Gregory Cameron, Rev Edwin Counsell, and the pupils and teachers taking part in the presentation.

Photograph: Pupils from St Joseph’s Catholic and Anglican High School, Wrexham


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