The role and place of Church Schools in the overall mission of the Church of England is of prime importance and the Exeter Diocesan Board of Education (EDBE) wishes to work with the governing body of a school to ensure the continued quality of provision. Church schools have strong internal binding, based on Christian belief and values, and this binding gives educational strength through effective team work, and through shared language and values, which help to create a community characterised not just by people caring for one another and the school serving others but also high quality of education and standards of attainment.
The Diocese is committed to working with governing bodies and school leaders on their drive for continual improvement. We believe in empowering people and organisations and are aware of the dangers of learned helplessness. In emergency situations the approach may need to be more direct and directed but we are clear that the end purpose is for schools to feel able to operate autonomously making their own decisions and seeking support rather than expecting the lead to be taken from the outside. Most of the time governing bodies, along with their headteacher and other staff, are able to maintain and continually improve the standards and quality of provision in their school. The best schools recognise that they need support from outside in this task and the Diocese is ready to work with them. One of the objectives of the Diocese, expressed in the Strategy for Church Schools (2008) is “to improve further the quality of church schools”.
Unfortunately there are times when a school becomes particularly vulnerable for a variety of reasons. In some circumstances, associated with falling standards, the Secretary of State has powers which could result in the closure of a church school. In other circumstances the high standards of care for all expected in a Christian community may be reduced due to a number of factors. The Diocese wishes to reduce these risks and seeks to identify schools in such vulnerable positions at the earliest possible time, open discussions with the governing body and work with them to address the issues.
The Diocese has recruited and developed a very strong team of educational professionals with wide experience of leading and supporting schools. It has focussed on building relationships with church schools and developing strong partnerships between church schools and the parishes or mission communities that they serve as well as with the three Local Authorities (LAs) of Devon, Torbay and Plymouth and the Boards of Education in neighbouring Dioceses (Bath and Wells, Salisbury and Truro). The Diocese is working with church schools to take advantage of national schemes such as Teaching Schools, and National, Local and Specialist Leaders in Education (NLE, LLE &SLE) as well as recognising good practice at all levels within our schools. In addition the Diocese is in the fortunate position of having a church HE institution within its boundaries, University of St Mark and St John, as well as strong links with Exeter University. All of these factors put the Diocese in a strong position to provide direct support through its own resources and broker support from partners.