Church Schools of the Future, a 39-page report produced by Dr Priscilla Chadwick, for the Church of England says that it intends to expand the number of Church schools by at least 200 (on top of the 4,800 it already has) and intensify the religious input into lessons. The Chadwick report calls for a new "concordat" between the Church and the government that will "reinforce and enhance" the Church's influence throughout the education system.
The Church says that schools "stand at the centre of its mission" and that they enable "more direct engagement with children and their families than any other contact including Sunday worship".
It says that schools "must include a wholehearted commitment to putting faith and spiritual development at the heart of the curriculum and ensuring that the Christian ethos permeates the whole educational experience."
The report says that "religious education and collective worship should continue to make major contributions to the Church school's Christian ethos to allow pupils to engage seriously with and develop an understanding of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ."
Church schools, it says, should enable pupils "to flourish in their potential as a child of God," which would be "a sign and expression of the Kingdom that is at the heart of the Church's distinctive mission."
The report makes clear that the Church intends to use its schools as a platform to evangelise throughout the community. In effect, it intends to make state schools into evangelical bases to promote the Church's message to people who would otherwise never choose to have anything to do with it. It says: "New approaches are needed to ensure that the Church's mission is more widely known through schools and is fully understood."
The report says that partnership between the school and the local church will be strengthened, with a new intention to train clergy to ensure they can make maximum impact in schools. There is also a call to ensure teachers and heads are on board with the Christian message.
Talking to the Times Educational Supplement today, the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard, who chairs the CofE national board of education, said: "We need to point to the roots of our values, that they lie in our Christian faith, and that the life, death and new life of Jesus Christ is a touchstone for us. We want to mandate schools to be much clearer on their Christian identity."
But Revd Janina Ainsworth, the CofE's chief education officer, said there was "no contradiction" in promoting deeper study of Christianity even if schools took fewer religious children. She told the TES: "What we are particularly concerned about at the moment is the quality of teaching about Christianity. Every child is entitled to have that kind of profound engagement with Christianity and to learn more about Christianity than other religions because of its role in the history of the country."
Revd Ainsworth said that learning about Christianity would help children with their spiritual development and denied it was a way "to turn out good, church-going children".
But despite this attempt at reassurance, there is no doubt that the report reads like a threat rather than a promise. It seems to be far more about pushing church doctrine than about educating children. This is very much about producing the next generation of Anglicans by an increase in the volume of proselytising in schools where children are a captive audience.
And it is unlikely that they will be a willing audience. Church attendance by under 19 year olds has dropped by two thirds in the last 20 years. Christian Research predicts will fall by a further two thirds in the next 15 years. Little over 1% of the population attend an Anglican church on a normal Sunday - and they are ageing fast. These figures indicate that the Church of England should be having power taken away from it, rather than its demands for yet more power and privilege being acceded to.
Of course, this ambition to religionise a whole new generation fits very well with the ambitions of some members of the current government - notably Lady Warsi and the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles who have both recently spoken about putting Christianity at the centre of public life.
But is this a proper use of public money? Church of England schools are funded entirely by the taxpayer. The education budget is supposed to be about education, not religious indoctrination.
Schools are for teaching, not preaching. But if the Church of |England gets its way, the opposite will be the case.