Church of England may double its secondary schools by 2010.

Church of England may double its secondary schools by 2010.

In what may herald the biggest shake-up in Christian education in Britain for 30 years, a review group set up by the Archbishops’ Council is to examine the achievements of the church’s schools and assess how it should provide education in the future.

It runs one in four primary schools, 4,550 in number, leading to fierce demand for places at secondary level, where it provides only 198 schools, one in 20. The schools have 85% of their running costs paid by the government.

By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church has 1,760 primary and 363 secondary schools.

Heading the review is Lord Dearing, who has been ap pointed by successive governments to tackle education crises. He said after the first meeting of the eight-member group in London yesterday that redressing the balance between provision in the primary and secondary sectors was key to its work.

Church of England may double its secondary schools by 2010.

The group hoped to devise a long-term strategy particularly for increasing the number of secondary schools, possibly even doubling the number over 10 years.

He said the church might consider taking over failing local authority run schools, which would otherwise have to close, and to have more schools in deprived areas.

The group will also look at ways of making teaching more attractive to young Christians, and at how the church could best support teachers.

Lord Dearing said: “Anyone coming new to the world of C of E schools must be surprised to see their very uneven geographical spread and the big disparity in the provision of places between primary and secondary schools. No time could be better than the present for a review, in the light of the recent school standards and framework act and the unsatisfied demand by parents for places [for their children] in church schools.

“The time has come for the church, for the first time in a long history, to develop a coherent strategy towards its schools.”

The details of the review triggered fresh concerns about religion-based selection.

Keith Porteous-Wood, general secretary of the National Secular Society, said: “The very concept of pupils being selected with reference to their parents’ beliefs is abhorrent in a secular society in the 21st century.

“Instead of opening more church schools we should be concentrating on improving mainstream schools open to all pupils.”