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Faith schools take top marks for a reason

Every year the Sunday Times publishes a list of the top 500 primary schools. This year 60% of the places were taken by faith schools. Of these, 142 were Church of England schools; 141 were Catholic; and 28 were Jewish.

There are more than 6,700 faith schools in England alone: 4,646 Church of England, 2,041 Roman Catholic, and 37 Jewish. It should be noted that these are State-maintained faith schools, but many of them were started by private individuals decades or centuries ago.

Why do faith schools do well?

Some have suggested that the children of faith schools do well because their parents are well-to-do and take an interest in their children, pushing them to achieve. Chris Woodhead, a former HM chief inspector of schools, responds in another article in the Times: “The social class of its intake is an irrelevance. . . the faith school is a genuine community bound together by shared concerns and aspirations. Parents have made a specific choice and they know that this choice brings with it responsibilities. . ."

A sustaining ethos?

The Acting Head of St. Mary and St. Thomas Aquina RC primary in Blaydon-on-Tyne in Gateshead, a Catholic school that is No. 2 on the list, said, “The strength of the school lies in its ethos. Gospel values are very important. They are essential to our mission.” Norma Massel, the head teacher at the top school, North Cheshire Jewish school in Cheadle, said that the moral and discipline code imposed by religious schools was a key to their performance.

The numbers would seem to speak for themselves.