Picture credit: Bible Society / Layton Thompson

Prime Minister hears Archbishop praise Church schools at Prayer Breakfast

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, listened as the Archbishop of Canterbury praised Church schools at the Houses of Parliament this morning.

The Most Revd Justin Welby said that Church schools exemplified ‘tolerance, acceptance, generosity and open-handedness’.

Referring to the recent Birmingham schools’ scandal he said, ‘Let me say that none of the recent problems were in Church schools.’

The Trojan Horse ‘plot’ to bring hardline Islamic practices into Birmingham’s schools saw six go into special measures as OFSTED found that they had come under the influence of governors set on limiting the curriculum. 

The Archbishop said that Church schools stood in contrast to this. ‘Education is something that the Church has done for centuries and we do it today,’ he said.

The Archbishop was speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, founded, in the mid-1980s and organised by Bible Society.

Some 700 people including 80 MPs and 40 Peers, Bishops, diplomats and business people filled Westminster Hall this morning.

Despite his emphasis on the vital contribution of Church schools to British society, the Archbishop said it ‘would be a dreadful condemnation’ if the Church were just to be ‘useful’.

‘The Church is not an NGO with lots of old buildings,’ he said. ‘The Church holds the treasure of reconciliation’ and deals with ‘the realities of cultural diversity’.

There are 4,664 Church of England schools in Britain, with some 1 million students. An additional 500,000 children attend Catholic schools in the UK.

In a statement David Cameron - who is the first Prime Minister to attend the event since Mrs Thatcher - called the Prayer Breakfast ‘a special moment in the Parliamentary calendar’.

He added, ‘I believe very deeply that we should be confident in Britain about our status as a Christian country.

‘Greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a stronger belief in our work as politicians to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.’

Stephen Timms MP, the Chair of the National Prayer Breakfast, called the Archbishop’s address ‘inspiring’.

He added it was the first time both a serving Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition had attended the event in its 30 year history.  

 

Video production: Tim Read/Perspective Broadcast Ltd

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