Friday, September 02, 2016

Questions from Synod

Now the Report of Proceedings from the July Synod is available online, I reproduce these two extracts from the question time when I asked two supplementary questions.  As ever, this is about transparency in relation to what happens at Synod.

The first relates to Safeguarding, and to the difference in cycles between DBS checks and training requirements.  I have been involved in working out a Diocesan training schedule for Safeguarding and we have found that it misses a trick to combine the two cycles making record keeping (and hence reminders and up to date training and checks) simpler.

35. Revd Canon Jenny Tomlinson (Chelmsford) asked the Chair of the House of Bishops:  Can it be confirmed whether or not DBS checks are in future to be required every three rather than five years; and, if they are, what is the estimated cost to the whole Church, and benefit, of such a change?

The Bishop of Durham (Rt Revd Paul Butler) replied as Chair of the Joint Safeguarding Working Group: I will start by saying that a criminal record certificate is only truly accurate on the day it is issued. However, there is no official renewal/expiration date for a certificate. It is left to organisations to set the renewal period. The current policy in the Church of England, as approved by the House of Bishops, is to renew criminal record checks every five years. Of course, this period is kept under review. Three years has been mentioned as a possibility, as many charities, local authorities and schools adopt this time frame for renewals, but currently no final decision has been taken to amend this renewal period. Obviously, before such a change is made an analysis of the relevant pros and cons would be undertaken.

Revd Canon Jenny Tomlinson: Thank you very much for this answer. If this analysis of relevant pros and cons is undertaken, can Synod be assured that it would be both quantified and published?

The Bishop of Durham: I am sure that when this analysis is done there will be a clear communication about what the conclusion is.

Revd Canon Dr Simon Taylor (Derby): Would it also, as part of that consideration, be possible to bring the renewal of the DBS into line with the requirement for the renewal of safeguarding training? At the moment the two things seem to be out of kilter and three years and five years only align every 15 years, which is quite a complex system for dioceses seeking to retain records and to get this in good order.

The Bishop of Durham: That is a very helpful observation as part of the consideration. Certainly, the three-year cycle does work quite well because you have to have a DBS when you have a new appointment and so on, but that is part of the considerations that we look at.

The second question relates to schools, and the challenge that Derby Cathedral has felt in articulating and being understood that the proposed Cathedral School is not for our benefit but for the good of Derby.  It is to be a Church School serving the city of Derby, not a faith school serving Anglicans or the Cathedral.

50. Mrs Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) asked the Chair of the National Society Council: Although the Government is no longer proposing to turn all existing schools into academies, the commitment to opening 500 new ‘free’ schools by 2020 remains in place. Very few bids for new Church schools are succeeding, despite the Church of England’s record of providing excellent education. Given the high cost of each bid (£30,000), what proposals does the Church of England have for resourcing this invaluable provision to the nation?

The Bishop of Ely (Rt Revd Stephen Conway) replied as Chair of the National Society Council: I refer to my answer to Question 49. The level of resource required to submit a bid for a Free School is considerable. The National Society is funding the provision of consultancy advice to dioceses. Part of the consultant’s role is to identify areas where bids are most likely to be successful so as to avoid wasting precious resource. Co-ordinating and sharing intelligence across the network of dioceses will help this bidding process but we recognise that other providers have access to significant funds which can make comprehensive and professional bids more compelling. We do not think that the future of the educational offer in a community should be determined by the quality of marketing or the amount of money spent on a bid, but dioceses need, as a matter of priority, to consider how to use their existing assets to ensure that they continue to enhance their provision as this is a unique opportunity to develop new schools.

Mrs Mary Durlacher: Thank you for clarifying that dioceses will be expected to continue funding bids. My question is, therefore, this: for dioceses like mine, Chelmsford, with larger than average population growth, therefore a greater need for new schools, will the national Church help with the cost of funding bids because we really cannot afford to keep losing £30,000 per bid?

The Bishop of Ely: I would love to be able to say, Mary, that the answer is yes, but I think we have to recognise that resources are limited and so there is a question about being strategic where the bids are being made. There is support from the centre for helping to make bids that are effective, but we cannot promise that there would be central funding, as far as I know at the moment, to underwrite bids. This needs to be a real priority set by the diocese itself.

Revd Canon Dr Simon Taylor (Derby): Derby Cathedral is currently going through the bid process. Can I ask how the National Society Council is helping to articulate a model of a Church school serving the common good of all as distinct to faith schools serving the children of the faith? And how it is helping Government and decision makers about faith school applications to understand that distinction?

The Bishop of Ely: I am grateful for the question. It obviously demands quite a complex answer which cannot be supplied in the time that the Dean of Southwark will allow me. To be absolutely clear, what we are seeking to do and putting before the DfE all the time is that in our bids to provide new schools to meet fresh demands for our children that our Church schools are Church schools for all in the name of Jesus Christ. They are not faith schools simply to serve our own purpose as part of the distilled service of the Church of England for the common good of all.

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