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Church of England looks to tackle teacher recruitment challenges in rural schools

The Church of England is launching a new Rural Teaching Partnership to address teacher recruitment challenges faced by some C of E schools.

The partnership, with the education charity Teach First and the Chartered College of Teaching, will run in nine pilot regions and see trainee teachers start two-year-placements either in Church of England schools, or non-Church of England schools which are part of a Church of England federation or a multi academy trust. 

Revd Canon Nigel Genders, who is the Church of England's Chief Education Officer, spoke to Premier about the partnership:

"It's something that the church has been really involved and interested in for a number of years now. Because we run so many rural Church of England schools, we know that the schools across the country struggled to find the right quality of teachers. And so, we wanted to develop a partnership where we could really impact on the quality of teachers that could be directed towards rural schools."
The Church of England is the majority provider of rural schools nationally, with more than half of its 4,644 schools situated in rural areas. 
The new partnership comes on the back of the Church of England's 2018 publication, Embracing Change, that highlighted the challenge facing rural schools and the church's commitment to schools in rural areas, where delivery of education services is typically more expensive per child than in urban areas. The report highlighted the need to recruit excellent teachers and leaders, along with finding new ways of working collaboratively.

Rural school leaders face greater difficulties with staff recruitment and retention compared to urban schools. 

"I think sometimes it's about the kind of the rural isolation. So, one of the problems that schools have in rural communities is that because they're in rural communities, people don't often think automatically about how they can work in those schools. And they're a bit worried about the kind of rural isolation. So when we were developing the partnership, we were really keen to make sure that we build a cohort of trainee teachers who can really benefit from being part of a kind of a cohort of people who they can work with and get encouragement from," Revd Canon Nigel Genders added.

The nine pilot regions are Derbyshire, Norfolk, Yorkshire (Diocese of Leeds and York combined), Cornwall, Dorset (Diocese of Salisbury), Essex (Diocese of Chelmsford), Oxfordshire, Herefordshire, Somerset (Diocese of Bath and Wells).

In a statement The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, the Church of England's lead bishop for Education said: "Children in rural communities deserve excellent teachers, and this partnership is about helping to ensure the best outcomes for children in every community. More than a third of the 15 million people alive today who went to a Church of England school will have done so in a rural area and will have special memories of their time.

"We are committed to running excellent schools in rural communities and ensuring that children who live and learn there get to work with fantastic teachers." 

To date, Teach First's Training Programme, has recruited, trained and placed over 15,000 trainee teachers in schools serving disadvantaged communities.

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