Secular Society criticises Church bid to run Kettering East school

Warkton fields looking towards Stamford Rd Kettering where Kettering East development will be
Warkton fields looking towards Stamford Rd Kettering where Kettering East development will be

The National Secular Society has criticised a Church of England bid to run the first primary school on the Kettering East development.

Earlier this month, the Northants Telegraph reported the Diocese of Peterborough’s plans to open a Voluntary Aided school there.

The Church has said the school would be open to those whether or not they had a church or faith background.

But the National Secular Society’s Stephen Evans says a church school would not be appropriate for the development, which is set to see the building of about 5,000 new homes.

In a statement published on the society’s website, Mr Evans, campaigns manager, said: “Schools intended to serve the whole community should not have a distinctive religious ethos. However ‘inclusive’ church schools claim to be, the fact remains that an education provided in a Christian context will not be appropriate for many within the community.

“With dwindling congregations, the Church knows that its involvement in schools is the only way for it to appear relevant to children and their families. The local authority should bear in mind that schools are there to serve the local community, not vested interests.”

But the Diocese of Peterborough’s Director of Education Miranda Robinson said: “Church of England schools were first established over 200 years ago to serve the whole of their local community.

“We’re building on that tradition and the proposed school will offer a broad and balanced curriculum taught to the highest standards in an environment where the spiritual dimensions of life are respected.

“The ethos of the school will be founded on key Christian values such as respect, compassion, service, friendship and justice. A high standard of behaviour will be expected, and all pupils will be supported and encouraged according to their individual abilities.”

A spokesman for the Peterborough Diocese added that existing community schools are unable to cater for the expected influx of children, and there is no other Church of England school within easy reach of the estate.

Two informal public meetings are being held at which the proposals will be presented. Both are on Tuesday, April 1, at 2pm in Christ the King Church, Deeble Road, Kettering, and at 7pm at St Botolph’s Church, Barton Seagrave. The Diocesan proposal is likely to be considered by the Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet in the summer.

The spokesman also said it was a misconception that congregations are dwindling in the Kettering area, with several churches seeing a growth in numbers.