This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
The role of church schools
There are a number of misleading ideas in Allan Hayes' letter "A divided society looms" (Mailbox, February 13).
Contrary to the implication of the letter, most Church of England schools do not "select pupils by their religion" and have very inclusive admission policies which are open to people of any religion or none. What is on offer is a Christian ethos in terms of the values and practices of the school and the approach to education.
This, however, is not exceptional. There is no such thing as a "neutral" school in terms of ethos and a secular-humanist outlook is just as much a faith stance as a religious one.
Of course, it would be natural for Anglicans to want the next generation to understand and experience the Christian faith at school, but the idea of the church "using schools more systematically to evangelise" is again misleading, and church schools would understand the distinction between education and ethos on the one hand and any attempt to convert on the other.
Finally, saying that "the church is offering to take the place of local authorities in providing assistance" and "looking to be the biggest 'provider' of education in the country" makes it sound as if the church has initiated big expansionist plans.
The fact is that the Government has introduced the academies initiative and the provision of the local authority in the county is diminishing fast.
Leicester diocese's board of education is very committed to support its 97 church schools, many of which are small and are very vulnerable in this new era. Consequently clustering with other schools is one way to ensure that they continue to have access to good quality services.
Sometimes it will make sense to partner with non church schools too.
However, the purpose of that would not be to make them become church schools, but to benefit from shared support and resources.
So I would have no quarrel with Allan Hayes' conclusion – "We must work together" – a commitment to the best education for our children demands that.
However, misleading statements about the nature and purpose of church schools is only going to increase division and defensiveness, when in reality they are as committed to an inclusive vision for education as anyone.
David Newman, Archdeacon of Loughborough and chair of the Board of Education for Leicester Diocese