Controversy at the CofE Education Division

23 01 2012

It has become a familiar story in economic difficulty: dedicated and well-regarded public servants performing vital work are told that they will no longer be funded so to do.

However, we must not make the mistake of assuming that the recent restructuring proposed in the Education Division of the Church of England follows the pattern of public sector cuts in the secular world. Many diocesan youth officers and young people themselves have expressed anger about the slimming down of two seperate roles (National Childrens’ Advisor and National Youth Advisor) into one ‘Going for Growth Officer’.

There are substantial reasons to be frustrated, even angry, about the proposed changes. Indeed, we must press the Education Division for answers on a number of questions. Nevertheless, we must be careful to identify very carefully what our objections are.

Any scrutiny of the proposals must take note of the peculiar timescale of consultation employed, and the disappointing way in which individuals concerned have been treated. The Church should never shy away from difficult HR situations, but should also demonstrate a commitment to taking good care of employees.

Second, the substance of the proposals appears at odds with the expressed commitment of the national church at all levels – to take seriously its role in supporting and nurturing young people. To halve the personnel available for such work appears to send a worrying message that we are merely paying lip service to young people.

I met with Jan Ainsworth (Chief Education Officer for the Church of England) on 17th January, and asked her how she justified reducing the size of her team dedicated to young people and children. Jan explained that she remained committed to youth work, and that the restructuring was aimed at better directing her resources so as to serve young people and children more effectively – the pot of cash available remains the same.

Jan expressed a concern that progress was not being made with the Going for Growth strategy as quickly as she had hoped. She believed that this was because her department lacked specific expertise in certain areas, and that she needed to free up some cash to enable key short-term projects in those areas. In particular, Jan highlighted:

– More muscular engagement with CEYC (Jan has noted the success of the Methodists’ full-time Youth President)

– Meaningful data and statistical research to establish what is happening, and where best to place resources (not sexy, but a valuable part of being able to talk about what we’re doing)

– Supporting and nuturing diocesan projects, to allow them to be rolled out effectively on a larger scale

– Central support for regional youth conferences

The challenge now, for Synod members and others, is to engage with the proposals in as constructive a way as possible.

  1. Clearly the restructuring has been dealt with in a clumsy manner – that must be challenged.
  2. The proposals appear to indicate a disappointingly loose commitment to young people and children from the Archbishops’ Council, in spite of the  call to arms of Rowan Williams’s New Year message. Again this must be challenged.
  3. There may well be a legitimate case for making these changes. If this is so, the case must be made – made publicly, clearly, and in consultation with those most intimately concerned: the young people of the communities we serve.

Synod rolls towards us: let’s make sure we stand our ground – challenging but constructive.

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2 responses

25 01 2012
The Church Mouse (@thechurchmouse)

Seems pretty clear to me that if additional resources are needed, they should be found, rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul, and cutting one job to create resources for other work. What is frustrating is that these decisions appear (based on the hearsay that I hear) to have been made with no consultation anywhere, despite the fact that Going for Growth was heartily endorsed as a national priority for the church by General Synod.

25 01 2012
themethatismeeal terry

I’ve just read this Going for Growth thing. Seems to be full of the usual platitudinous promises in order to justify a shuffle. It is devoid of substance and devoid of any real concept of what the work entails. It is at least, as vaccuous as the governments policy statement on young people.

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