Free Schools explained
St Mary’s Hampton CE Primary School will be a new Free School. The Department for Education defines Free Schools as:
“All-ability state-funded schools set up in response to what local people say they want and need in order to improve education for children in their community. Through the Free Schools programme it is now much easier for talented and committed teachers, charities, parents and education experts to open schools to address real demand within an area.”
In our case, St Mary’s Church, together with local parents, volunteers and the LDBS (the London Diocesan Board for Schools, which already runs 149 C of E schools in London) is setting up a new school to serve the families of Hampton and Hampton South in particular, through the Free Schools programme.
As with all Academy Schools and Free Schools, there will be an Academy Trust which will enter a Funding Agreement with the Department for Education (DfE) before the school opens. This means that funding for the school will be provided by the DfE rather than the local authority.
St Mary’s will be a primary school, with learning based around the National Curriculum. Our Free School status means we will also have more freedom to innovate in our timetable, for example, with whole school activities every Friday.
Faith Schools explained
The Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life has published its report and has succeeded in attracting a great deal of media coverage. This report is not commissioned by the government and there is no way of knowing how it will be acted upon. The Commission begins by reflecting that the number of Britons who profess a Christian faith has declined over the past 15 years and goes on to offer a number of recommendations for different parts of public life.
In the media coverage and in the report itself there is a confusion about ‘church schools’ and ‘faith schools’ – which are not the same. Clearly some ‘faith schools’ have been very restrictive in their operation and some (over-subscribed) church schools have had problems over their admissions' policy advantaging church families. However, St Mary’s cannot be criticised along neither of these lines (we are not a 'faith school' and we are not like most Church Schools, being a Free School.)
St Mary’s welcomes children of families who have and have not a religious faith; we have an open admissions policy. Our school community reflects the broader community in ethnicity and religious background. Ofsted said of us ' Through participating in celebrations, performances and assemblies, the school encourages pupils to respect their own and other cultures and faiths'. The Commission's report criticises poor Religious Education. As a church school we would want to do RE really well, because we hold it to be so important. Children, as part of RE, will learn about the Christian religion and other world faiths. Collective Worship is a valued part of school life and openly reflects our Christian ethos. In one sense the report is merely recognising that in many schools Collective Worship is insipid or embarrassing. In our church school it is done well, it is not exclusive and gives every child an opportunity to reflect. Ofsted said of St Mary's 'Pupils learn tolerance and to respect their own and other cultures and faiths through discussions in assemblies.'
How a church school can have open admissions
This is a clip from a BBC programme (Sunday Morning Live) broadcast on 14 Sunday 2014. The section about our school set up a studio discussion about how church schools could be inclusive. The film is used with the kind permission of the BBC.