Nearly 200 providers of schools with a religious character, representatives of faith communities and government officials gathered for a conference, “Keeping Faith in the System”, affirming the work of schools with a religious character and their collaboration with other schools at the Institute of Directors on Wednesday 14th October 2009.
The conference built on DCSF’s 2007 publication, “Faith in the System”, which celebrated the positive contribution that schools with a religious character make to society. “Keeping faith in the System” highlighted the positive contribution which schools with a religious character make in the school system, their local communities and beyond.
The Rt Hon Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, gave the keynote address, in which he said, “the vibrancy, dynamism and success of schools with a religious character has never been stronger. I’ve seen for myself how faith schools are using their unique ethos to develop well-rounded young people who have a strong sense of community and respect for others – including those of different faiths and backgrounds.”
He noted that, “In many ways, they are leading the way and are some of the best exemplars we have on promoting community cohesion because many faith schools are more diverse than other schools. I fully support and am committed to the role of faith schools in our education system.”
He praised the results in schools with a religious character, saying, “almost 10% more pupils in faith schools now achieve five good GCSEs including English and Maths compared to the national average – that’s 58% of faith school pupils compared to 48% nationally” and went on to praise the faster rate of improvement in schools with a religious character compared to other maintained schools.
Oona Stannard, Chief Executive and Director of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, addressing the conference, said, “We are here to continue and take forward a success story – the success story of schools with a religious character. Yes, our interests and concerns may start with the pupils of schools in our own tradition but not exclusively so – we also have a responsibility which we willingly accept to collaborate and support appropriately within the wider family of maintained schools.”
Ms Stannard highlighted the importance of the right to parental choice in education, “For parents to feel that the importance of their faith is acknowledged in the very real terms of the availability of a school of their faith (or one where they know their faith will be respected) is a very powerful force for building trust and partnership. In this way schools with a religious character are a tangible and positive response to communities and their needs.”
She concluded, “Keeping Faith in the System isn’t an end point but it is a milestone on a continuum of collaboration. Working together from within our traditions and beyond we can ensure that schools with a religious character remain faithful, high achieving and of service to the community.”
Around 33% of maintained schools in England are schools with a religious character (6,792 maintained faith schools out of a total of 20,217 maintained schools).
These include Catholic, Church of England, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventist and United Reform Church schools.
Around 10% of maintained schools are Catholic.
Two million pupils are taught in schools with a religious character across England and Wales.
The following pdfs can be downloaded:
It is possible to access the full photo gallery from the conference by visiting our Flickr photostream.