Bishop of Ely takes school complaint right to the top...by telephoning Government minister!

08:34 20 March 2014

Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway

Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway

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The Bishop of Ely was so upset that the church was not selected to take control of Ely’s new primary school that he telephoned the Government to complain.

Education under secretary of state, Lord Nash.  Photo: Bill SmithEducation under secretary of state, Lord Nash. Photo: Bill Smith

The Diocese of Ely was one of a number of organisations that put forward a bid to be run the new Isle of Ely Primary School, to be located in the new north Ely housing development.

The judging panel did not back the diocese’s bid, however, and instead opted to appoint the Barnfield Schole Academy Trust, though the Government later stepped in an appointed the Active Learning Trust instead.

But the bishop was unhappy with the decision and said that it was his desire to grow the church school brand that led him to challenge the Government over the decision.

The Diocese of Ely has 83 schools in its care, including the likes of St Mary’s in Ely, Sutton Primary and Mepal and Witcham Primary schools.

He said: “I decided to contact the education minister, Lord Nash. This caused a flurry in the department. I do not think it is usual to go direct to the top, as it were.

“Not surprisingly, Lord Nash was initially non-committal on the telephone; but I think I persuaded him that we are very realistic in this diocese about the challenges we face in terms of school improvement and that we are really ambitious and want to be entrepreneurial in relation to developing a close network of partnerships.”

The bishop said he told the minister that “he ought to be supporting us in our ambition to make a difference” and as a result of his bold step, the bishop was invited to London to meet the minister and Theodore Agnew, a Government advisor on academies.

Of the meeting, the bishop said: “I am not interested in maintaining a place in the delivery of education just for the sake of it. I am not interested in institutional survival or in fighting the humanists as a matter of pride. There is no time or point in it.

“I believe passionately that we should rejoice in the church’s engagement in education as we know it since the early nineteenth century and in other patterns like the monastery schools for fifteen hundred years.”

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