The Church of England has launched a new vision for its engagement with the Further Education (FE) sector.
The report 'Vocation, Transformation & Hope' has highlighted three main ways the Church of England can contribute to FE institutions, which teach people between ages 16-18: exploring how further FE makes a difference to people's sense of vocation, their personal transformation and their hope for society.
According to the report there are 2.2 million students enrolled in 168 FE colleges across the country but the presence of the Church of England in those is very small or non-existent.
"We have no further education colleges that we are sponsors of or responsible for starting. So, this is a whole area that we have probably, to be honest, ignored," the lead Bishop for Higher and Further Education Rt Rev Tim Dakin told Premier.
"Therefore, we need to understand it better ourselves. First, we need to appreciate its significance and we need to work out how we can be part of this very important element in our national life," Bishop Tim continued.
The report encourages each diocese to look at partnerships with local colleges as a core part of the Church's own planning.
It also challenges the Church to come up with ideas to better support chaplaincy provision, one of the main ways in which churches have reached out to staff and students, offering pastoral care, exploring issues of faith, belief and spirituality.
They also want to acknowledge the practical, skill-based nature of the education provided at FE colleges, which they say are the basis for the development of the economy through new technology.
"FE is now training high-level professionals involved in these grains, sophisticated areas of our society. So, we need to rediscover this element. Other churches, I think have realised this too, but I think the Church of England is waking up too. Let's stop being so middle class, let's really understand how our economy works and who are important in enabling our society to be what it is," Bishop Tim said.
"FE colleges are anchor institutions in our local communities. They are places where people find hope…Pray for people as they develop their vocations, as they learn and are transformed and as they look for hope in society," he concluded.
The report sits along alongside the Church of England's visions for schools and higher education, Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good (2016) and Faith in Higher Education (2020).