Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spring Morning Thoughts: Education

One hangs out on the deck these mornings, for a few minutes at least, with the first espresso of the day and with the dogs cheerfully circling before they settle down patiently to wait.

The day off yesterday was a bit of a farce. Most of it was spent chasing up information about why a devout Anglican family could not get their daughter into our excellent Anglican girls school. Summarising an exchange of emails, it seems the school considers it is (a) not really Anglican but merely 'in the Anglican tradition' and (b) being Anglican gives no priority of preference but is merely one consideration among others associated with 'special character'. The point of not giving particular preference to being devoutly 'Anglican' is, I understand, to avoid discrimination.

Hm! As I see it, there is something amiss here. In 1979 the school became integrated and in 1980 Synod amended its statute for the School - and there was no suggestion the school was not Anglican or that its Anglican identity was now compromised in any way. Did the integration deed require that practising committed Anglicans could have no place reserved for them at all? (If it did, what was the Bishop thinking?) Or is the lack of a real preference now something that has evolved over time?

These are not academic questions but they cut to the heart of what the church goes into education for. The primary (but not sole) reason we are are in education is because we are concerned about the formation of our young people as followers of Christ in that distinctive way that is the character of the Anglican church - and we need to do this because they are the church of the future. Consequently a priority for devout Anglican families should never be a problem. All it would mean is that a few places would always be held for families who were demonstrably in that category and if they were not taken up would then be made available more generally.

Of course the wider questions of church schools and whether we should be bothered with them is a debate that tends to provoke strong reactions. Many see these schools as bastions of privilege - and are ideologically opposed to them. I think that is far too severe. However if they are not to be bastions of privilege (and refuges from a failing state sector) they must at least genuinely honour the religious purpose for which they were founded.

I will continue to mull this over as we prepare for confirmations in the cathedral this Sunday. Now that's a point: I wonder when our church school last held a confirmation?

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