Our diocese chosen for new CofE rural schools project

A joint project to boost high quality education in rural settings has been launched by the Church of England, education charity Teach First and the Chartered College of Teaching.

The new Rural Teaching Partnership will run in ten pilot regions across England including the Diocese of Leeds and will see trainee teachers, trained by Teach First, start two-year placements with Church of England primary schools in September 2021.

By coming together, these three organisations hope to tackle teacher recruitment challenges currently faced by schools in poorer rural areas, with evidence showing that rural school leaders face greater difficulties with staff recruitment and retention compared to urban schools.

Diocesan Director of Education Richard Noake commented:

“The Diocese of Leeds is delighted to be working in partnership with Teach First and the Chartered College to support teaching in the rural parts of our large diocese.

“Encouraging trainees to develop experience of and a deep commitment to rural education is a key strategy for the diocese in sustaining and nurturing our many excellent rural schools.”

With more than half of its 4,644 schools situated in rural areas, the Church of England is the majority provider of rural schools nationally. Within ten pilot regions, schools serving areas of rural deprivation will be selected for placements either in Church of England schools, or non-Church of England schools which are part of a Church of England federation or multi academy trust.

All trainee teachers in the partnership will be enrolled on Teach First’s Training Programme, which has recruited, trained and placed over 15,000 trainee teachers in schools serving disadvantaged communities to date. They will receive ongoing support and training from Teach First throughout the two years and will also benefit from bespoke training for rural school settings, such as teaching multiple year groups.

The partnership will also see new rural education networks set up for peer support between trainees. The Chartered College of Teaching will have a lead role in setting these up across the pilot regions, focusing on high quality teacher development sessions on issues particular to rural contexts.

In its 2018 publication, Embracing Change, the Church of England highlighted the challenge for rural schools, where delivery of education services is typically more expensive per child than in urban areas, but emphasised its commitment to these schools as part of a diverse national education provision. The report highlighted the need to recruit excellent teachers and leaders, and to find new ways of working collaboratively, aims which the new scheme will help to progress.

The ten pilot dioceses are Leeds, York, Truro, Salisbury, Chelmsford, Norwich, Oxford, Hereford, Derby, and Bath-and-Wells (see map of geographical area).

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, the Church of England’s lead bishop for Education said

“Children in rural communities deserve excellent teachers, and this partnership is about helping to ensure the best outcomes for children in every community.

“More than a third of the 15 million people alive today who went to a Church of England school will have done so in a rural area, and will have special memories of their time.

“We are committed to running excellent schools in rural communities and ensuring that children who live and learn there get to work with fantastic teachers.”

Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First said:

“Rural schools, particularly in areas with high deprivation, face complex challenges. This means they can struggle to recruit and retain the teachers and leaders they need for their pupils.

“This partnership aims to break this cycle. Not only by getting teachers to where they’re needed most, but by building powerful networks of support around them to ensure they thrive. When we get this right, we can create a fairer future for every child.”

Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, said:

"I am pleased that the Chartered College of Teaching will be part of this exciting initiative. It will shine a light on the expertise of teaching communities in rural areas of England."

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