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Education Secretary praises church schools and youth groups

by Cara Bentley

In Methodist Central Hall in Westminster on Thursday, hundreds of teachers, students, church leaders and educational professionals gathered to talk about the future of education and specifically how to build character and confidence among pupils from every background.

After a congregational rendition of Be Thou My Vision, the Education Secretary delivered his speech, saying: "The Church of England obviously knows a thing or two about character - it's one of the reasons your schools get such good results, why 88% of them are rated good or outstanding. Yours is one of the biggest names in education in the country - the single biggest name in primary education in particular. There have been church schools even longer, of course, than there have been state schools.

"Now we're seeing a further development of distinctive diocesan church multi academy trusts and I want to see more people, I hope, coming through from parishes to join in with that as governors and trustees."

Damian Hinds, who went to a Catholic school himself, went on to say that he wants 'public school confidence' to be a term of the past but the attribute to be available to students of every background, through greater access to creative, voluntary and performance-based activities.

When asked by Premier Christian Radio whether this was something churches could help with, as they've been providing youth groups for decades, the minister said: "Yeah, church youth groups and other youth groups do do great work in this area and can link-up with things like volunteering, working with charities, community work - and I pay tribute to what they do and I absolutely encourage them to keep on and do more".

In his speech to the Hall he added: "As you know, schools have a duty to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of their pupils and this is done throughout the school day through things like RE lessons but also re-encouraging pupils' self-belief and self-worth.

"It's at school that pupils will learn how to stand on the shoulders of giants. Those individuals with stories of inspiration and of courage from all corners of the curriculum, from RE, from history and literature - you learn a lot from Atticus Finch, as you do from Ghandi or Shackleton or Helen Keller, as indeed you do from the lessons in the Bible and the Holy books of the other great religions of the world".

Mr Hinds also praised Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons, for leading parliamentary prayers at the start of each day in parliament; something which recently was questioned again by the National Secular Society.

The minister said of prayers: "It is a private moment for all of us across the House of Commons, whatever party, whatever view we are, to stand together privately and reflect and remind ourselves of why we are there".

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