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Day 3

Report of the Board of Education Presented to General Synod

The report of the Board of Education was presented to General Synod this afternoon (Saturday May 12).

Proposing the report Mrs Helen McClenaghan, on behalf of the Board of Education NI, highlighted developments in Northern Ireland, and delivered the good news that the long–held ambition of controlled schools to have an advocacy body comparable to those for other school sectors had been realised with the establishment of the Controlled Schools Support Council.

“The sterling work on behalf of schools already achieved justifies the faith placed in it by schools and the Churches. Dr Hamill, Secretary to the board, and a CSSC member, is an invaluable conduit of information between the board and the council.  No time for complacency; we must be vigilant that the Department of Education does not trim the resources allocated to CSSC as a cost cutting measure,” she said.

Mrs McClenaghan also paid tribute to the Revd Amanda Adams who represents the church on the Education Authority as a transferor representative. She said they were privileged in the high quality of the leaders of schools, principals and governors.

Synod members viewed a video produced by Dr Hammill aimed at encouraging current governors and promote efforts to recruit successors to the current governor cadre as need arises.

The board is undergoing a review process to see how it can be reinvigorated. Among its ambitions are to bring coherence to the educational objects of parishes, diocesan boards of education and the board itself.

She said the review would need the involvement of clergy and laity. “Think of what you can do at parish level to offer pastoral support to teachers as they face so many and varied challenges. Could the teaching of RE and the conduct of the Act of Collective Worship be sustained or enriched if parishioners’ faith, life experiences and creative talents were made available to the schools?” she asked.

Mrs McClenaghan asked all who represent the Church of educational bodies to play a role in ameliorating the worst consequences in the disabling environment of financial stringency affecting individual schools. Some weeks into the 2018–2019 financial year almost 50% of schools did not have approved budgets because the governors had concluded they could not deliver education to meet the needs of their pupils within the amounts allocated, she said. Consequently the Education Authority would not approve their spending proposals because they exceeded their budgets.

She suggested starting a public campaign to help education and asked all people to raise their voices for education

Canon Brian O’Rourke presented the Republic of Ireland part of the report. He drew Synod’s attention to the Amendment to the Equal Status Act will remove the ‘Baptism Barrier’. However, he said minority schools could set their own criteria to apply when oversubscribed. He said that this was a significant legislative allowance. He said that the board would consider the implications of this and issue guidance in the coming weeks.

He also drew Synod’s attention to a Capitation Grant Campaign which drew together all primary schools. He said that the Capitation Grant was decreasing putting primary schools under financial pressure and showed a video to Synod members. He urged parents and grandparents to look up the video on YouTube and share it with their local TDs.

Speaking to the Republic of Ireland section of the report Canon John Clarke thanked the staff of the board of education for their hard work and thanked Bishop Burrows for joining Bishop Rooke on the Board of Education.

Jackie Wilkinson (Cork, Cloyne and Ross) welcomed the admissions policy to safeguard the ethos of Church of Ireland schools and said that good RE could support the ethos of schools. She gave background to the certificate of RE which she teaches in the Church of Ireland Centre in DCU, which includes the teaching of the Follow Me programme. The Certificate in Religious Education is for teachers who have not been trained in CICE. They volunteer to have 15 input hours for this course. Next Thursday she said another 10 teachers will be finishing their course bringing to 50 the number of teachers who have upskilled themselves to teach RE for schools. She thanked the General Synod Board of Education for facilitating the teachers in coming on the course.

Archdeacon Ricky Rountree asked if it was time that the model of patronage moved on from individual bishops being patrons for their own dioceses, shouldering a large load. He suggested patronage could move to one large incorporated body which would relieve the bishops and improve efficiency and would also create a stronger lobby group.