The Church’s role in Brentwood’s schools defined

We have been contacted in recent days for clarification on the different types of Church school that currently operate in Brentwood and have been provided with information on how this differs in the case of academies and free schools. This post is intended as a brief guide to the types of school currently in existence.

We will be providing analysis in the coming days of the importance of school admissions policies and how they reflect the Brentwood community, hopefully this will set the scene.

Aside from independent provision, there are currently three types of Church school in Brentwood. They are as follows:

Voluntary Aided (VA)

Developed from schools originally founded by the Church, the proportion of state funding for these schools has risen over time yet the governance of the school is usually controlled by members of the relevant Church group. The majority of Church schools in Brentwood follow this structure. Wikipedia defines them thus:

“Voluntary aided schools are a kind of “maintained school”, meaning that they receive all their running costs from central government via the local authority, and do not charge fees to students. In contrast to other types of maintained school, only 90% of the capital costs of a voluntary aided school are met by government. The foundation contributes the rest of the capital costs, owns the school’s land and buildings and appoints a majority of the school governors. The governing body runs the school, employs the staff and decides the school’s admission arrangements, subject to rules imposed by central government. Pupils follow the National Curriculum, except that faith schools may teach Religious Education according to their own faith.”

The following primary schools in Brentwood are VA: Bentley St Paul’s Primary School, Hutton All Saints Primary School, Ingrave Johnstone Primary School, Shenfield St Mary’s Primary School, St Helen’s Catholic Infants School, St Joseph the Worker Catholic Primary School,  St Peter’s Primary School, St Thomas of Canterbury Infants and Junior Schools. The secondary Ursuline Convent High School also follows this model.

Voluntary Controlled (VC)

Again, schools that were originally founded by the Church but with different funding and governance structures that are still largely under Local Authority control. VC schools are defined as follows in Wikipedia:

“Voluntary controlled schools are a kind of “maintained school”, meaning that they are funded by central government via the local authority, and do not charge fees to students. The land and buildings are typically owned by a charitable foundation, which also appoints about a quarter of the school governors. However, the Local Education Authority employs the school’s staff and has primary responsibility for the school’s admission arrangements. Pupils follow the National Curriculum.”

Doddinghurst Junior School and Mountnessing Primary School follow this model in Brentwood.

Faith Academies

These schools are funded independently of the LA and, instead, directly by central government. The Department for Education website explains:

“A faith academy is an academy with a faith designation order. Faith academies must provide religious education to all pupils at the academy in accordance with the tenets of the academy’s faith as set by its faith body…Faith academies may also apply a faith qualification in appointing their teachers and give priority to children of their faith in their admissions arrangements”

A fuller explanation is available on the DfE website here:

You will note that the governance is not affected by this structure. The “Academy Trust” forms the governance structure and there is no requirement on the Church to be part of this even if it appears from the school’s title that they will be so.

St Helen’s Catholic Junior School is an existing Faith Academy and the proposed Becket Keys Church of England School is also intending to follow this path. The DfE link also underlines an important difference however. As an existing maintained faith school, St Helen’s were able to continue to admit on the basis of faith alone should they see fit. Becket Keys, as a “free school”, must not use the faith criteria for more than 50% of it’s entrants. As previously reported, this came to the attention of the British Humanist Association who were concerned that the current policy did not meet this test:

As mentioned at the outset, we will shortly be reporting on how the current admissions policies in Brentwood’s primary schools reflects the make up of the local community in the very near future. This will also underline the importance of the final policy for the proposed free school.

Stephen Mayo



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