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Diocese launches new education strategy

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The vision is not only for Church schools but seeks to promote educational excellence for all whether living in a rural area, coastal community, market town or urban area.

Recognising the Church of England’s involvement in education over many centuries, the vision sets out a distinctive approach to a broad and balanced education which is more than just academic results and prepares children and young people for life in modern Britain.

Diocesan schools and academies (111 in total) represent more than half of Norfolk’s small schools and serve a quarter of the young people in the Diocese (nearly 17,000 young people in total). The majority serve rural communities and market towns with a hand full of larger schools on the outskirts of Norwich.

They serve their local communities, are fully inclusive, welcome those of all faiths or none, those with additional needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. At the heart of this new strategy is a love for schools and the young people in them.

A core feature of the Diocese’s approach has always been the notion of belonging to a family where service of others is promoted, alongside other Christian values such as the worth of each individual, love, forgiveness, humility and respect. These values are lived out in our schools and academies every day.

Speaking about the strategy the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James said:

“Our schools should be places of God’s blessing, where Christ’s promise that we should have life in all its abundance is tangible.

“[The strategy] seeks to bring a great many different areas of our life in education together – what we hope to achieve in the character and ethos of our church schools; how we aim to make them all good schools in the Ofsted ratings since our children deserve no less; how to recognise the value of every school in the diocesan family whatever its character; how to make sure our small schools – and we have many of them – are given the support to make them a part of a much bigger enterprise without imperilling their valued place in the communities they serve.

“This reflects the wider Church of England’s vision for education.”

Over recent years there has been significant changes implemented by national government and responding to this is one of the key drivers of the strategy. A passion to see the education system in Norfolk and NE Suffolk (i.e. the Diocese) recognised as a place of aspiration, achievement and hope is what underpins the strategy. The strategy says:

“Having reflected on local and national drivers, the context of the Diocese and our belief that the Church of England has a significant role to play in facilitating its school leaders to innovate and be successful, this strategy sets out a vision where all Diocesan schools are working together in Multi Academy Trusts (MAT)…

“We believe that the MAT model is the best way, although not the only way, for our predominantly small schools to be sustainably good or better….We therefore see the development of DMATs as a natural extension of this…”

The Diocese established its first MAT, the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT), in October 2013. It is an effectively structured and well-governed trust and this was emphasised in a recent Ofsted MAT review. In December 2017 the Department of Education gave permission for the Diocese to establish a second MAT, called the Diocese of Norwich St Benet’s Multi Academy Trust.

An essential part of the strategy is to provide a number of high-quality value for money services for schools, thereby taking much of this responsibility and pressure away from the Headteacher and local governing bodies. This would allow school leaders to concentrate on educating children, teaching and learning and working with the local community.

Therefore, a new company will be established to provide services centrally for Diocesan MATs and VA / VC schools who choose to procure via this route. The aim is to provide high quality, value for money services and cost savings which can be released back to support school improvement.

The strategy also acknowledges a strong desire for the Diocese to play a role in supporting those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged and ensuring they receive a good education. It recommends exploring the feasibility of Special Educational Needs schools and/or Alternative Provision for those excluded from mainstream schools and academies within the next five years.