Church of England launches website to promote school expansion

London, UK - Leaders of Church of England schools are planning rapid expansion and have hit back at critics who say that their superior academic performance is the result of covert social selection.

They claim that the reason for their success and the driving force behind their expansion lies in the Ancient Greek word koinonia. Roughly translated, koinonia means “fellowship”. More precisely it means “that which is held in common”, and in the context of schools it refers to a shared sense of purpose that can help to improve discipline and focus minds on the job of teaching and learning.

The word is identified on a Church of England website for schools ( as one of fifteen core values that make Christian schools popular with parents and students. Others include service, trust and forgiveness.

The website is the creation of John Saxbee, the Bishop of Lincoln and chairman of the Church of England Board of Education and the National Society, and it marks a new phase in the Church’s plans to open more state secondary schools.

Churches were the first to provide free education for the poor in early 19th-century England, long before the State became involved, and the country’s 6,900 faith schools still make up a third of the total school estate. There are 2,053 Roman Catholic schools, 36 Jewish, 8 Muslim, 2 Sikh, 1 Hindu and 82 other Christian schools.

At 4,657, the Church of England has by far the lion’s share. But only 220 of these are secondary and now the bishops want more. In the past eight years they have added a hundred secondary schools to their fold, thanks in large part to the Government’s academies programme for creating state-funded academy schools, independent of local authority control, in poor inner-city areas.

Last September seventeen CoE academies opened, another eleven will open next autumn, ten are in an advanced state of progress and forty more are under discussion. Most of these are in deprived areas and have been sponsored by individual dioceses.

The bishop says that the website will help to win hearts and minds as the schools expansion programme continues. “There’s a long-term programme to develop our role in education. The website is a resource to help our ability to expand church schools more effectively,” he said.

The Church hopes that the site will reassure critics who believe that faith schools should not be allowed to expand or even to select children on the basis of their religion.

A recent study by the Runnymede Trust, the race relations think-tank, found that only 11.4 per cent of pupils at primary faith schools are on free school meals, the shorthand for poverty, compared with 17.7 per cent in non-faith schools.

It concluded that faith schools, which dominate the top of school league tables, often offered inadequate education about other religions, sometimes displayed an “insular and absolutist” approach to the rest of society and had lost sight of their original historic mission to help the poor.