FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How many Church schools are there in the Diocese of St. Davids?

There are seven voluntary aided schools and eighteen voluntary controlled schools.

For a full list and details of Church schools in the Diocese of St. Davids please go to the Schools Directory.

What is the difference between a voluntary aided (VA) school and a voluntary controlled (VC) school?

The 1944 Education Act finally established a national system of free primary, secondary and further education, funded by the rates and national government.  Prior to this Act, education was provided by Board schools paid for by local rates and by voluntary schools, which were partly supported by local rates and government grants but which also relied heavily on voluntary contributions from parishes and individuals.

The 1944 Act introduced two categories of voluntary schools, the voluntary aided school and the voluntary controlled school, most of which were Church schools.  Those schools which chose to come under the control of the Local Education Authority came into the category of voluntary controlled schools.  In these schools, the Local Education Authority now became responsible for all the expenses of the school. It also took responsibility for the appointment of all but a very small number of teachers and for seeing that religious instruction was, for the most part, to be in accordance with the agreed syllabus.

However, the daily act of collective worship was to continue to be conducted in accordance with the requirements laid out in the school’s trust deed.  The school buildings continued to be owned by the voluntary body but the responsibility for maintaining the buildings now fell to the Local Education Authority.  The Church’s historic interest and continued involvement in the school was acknowledged and guaranteed by the appointment of a minority number of foundation governors to the school’s board of managers.

In those schools that chose to become voluntary aided schools, the local authority was given responsibility for ensuring the continued provision of education by “aiding” the school’s board of managers who nonetheless continued to be responsible for the provision of education in their school.  The Local Education Authority now paid the salaries of teachers and the school’s running expenses, but the managers retained the right to appoint and employ the school’s teaching staff and to provide and deliver an appropriate curriculum to all the school’s pupils.

In addition, the school’s board of managers continued to be responsible for admitting pupils to the school, for the provision of a denominational syllabus for the teaching of religious instruction, and for seeing that the daily act of collective worship was conducted in accordance with the school’s trust deed.

The voluntary body retained ownership of the school buildings while the responsibility for meeting the cost of any alterations, improvements or repairs to them became the responsibility of the school’s managers.  To help meet this responsibility, school managers could apply to national government for a grant of up to 50% of such costs (this is now up to 85% of costs and is provided by the Welsh Government).

In order to meet these commitments, the voluntary body retained a majority control of the school’s board of managers.  It remains a legal requirement that the number of foundation governors on the governing body of a voluntary aided school must exceed by two (three on large governing bodies) the total of all other governors.

This division of voluntary schools into aided and controlled continues today and nothing has been taken away from the roles and responsibilities of governors in either categories from those laid down in the 1944 Education Act. Many more, however, have been added.

Who appoints foundation governors?

Since the 1944 Education Acts, successive governments have recognized the responsibilities of the trustees of Church schools to ensure that the long-term future of Church school education is secure.

The trustees of Church in Wales schools in this diocese are the Diocesan Board of Finance and the Endowed Schools Committee.  They have the legal right to appoint foundation governors to our schools, but this right has been delegated to the Diocesan Education Team, which is the Diocesan Education Authority.

The Education Team appoints foundation governors for a period of four years after consultation with the Parochial Church Council of the parish in which the school is situated.

What is the role of a foundation governor?

All governors of aided or controlled schools work as a team and in close co-operation with the head teacher and all the staff.

Together the governors and staff contribute to the ethos of the school.  Foundation governors share with all the other governors the legal responsibilities of the governing body in running and managing the school in order to provide the best education for all its pupils.   However, foundation governors have the additional responsibilities of ensuring:

  • that the interests of the Church in Wales are safeguarded, and that the religious character of the school is preserved;
  • that the collective worship of the school is conducted in accordance with the requirements of the trust deed;
  • that in a voluntary aided school, the religious education curriculum follows the Religious Education Syllabus of the Church in Wales;
  • in controlled schools, denominational religious education is available if parents request its provision.
  • that the appropriate Section 50 Inspection is undertaken at or about the same time that the school undergoes it’s Estyn inspection.

Foundation governors represent the trustees who appointed them and have a legal duty to protect the interests of the trustees.  They play a leading role in the life of the school and have the right to be supported by the Church community, and particularly that of their own parish, and by the Diocesan Education Team.

Further information on the role of the foundation governor can be found in the booklet “Foundation Governors and the Church School” available free of charge from the Diocesan Director of Education.

How do I get my child a place in a Church school?

In voluntary controlled schools the admissions authority is the local authority, which has the responsibility for drawing up and applying the admissions policy and appeals procedure for both voluntary controlled and community schools.  For the addresses of the local authorities in this diocese, please see the FAQ “Which local authorities serve the Diocese of St. Davids?”

In a voluntary aided school, the governing body is the admissions authority for that school.  The governors are responsible for drawing up its admissions policy each year and for consulting with the local authority and all other appropriate admissions authorities in the area.

The admissions policy in an aided school should reflect the character of the trust deed and the needs of the community in which the school is set.  The governing body is also responsible for making provision for an appeals procedure, should there be an appeal against a decision not to admit a child.  Applications for places, therefore, go directly to the school.

The admissions policies of all nine aided schools in the Diocese of St. Davids make inclusion a priority and to that end, serving the communities in which they are set is an important principle for each school.

What is a Bishop’s Visitor?

Originally, a Bishop’s Visitor was appointed by a bishop to inspect religious education given in voluntary schools in his diocese, but our Bishop’s Visitors no longer do this.  The inspection of religious education in voluntary aided schools and collective worship in both voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools is now undertaken by specially trained Section 50 inspectors.

Today’s Bishop’s Visitors can be either ordained clergy or lay people who are appointed by the Bishop and commissioned by her to fulfill a specific role in relation to the Church schools in the diocese.  That role is to provide a link between the Bishop and the Diocesan Director of Education on the one hand and the Church in Wales aided and controlled schools in the diocese on the other.

Bishop’s Visitors are therefore Diocesan representatives who, along with the Diocesan Director of Education and the Diocesan Schools Officer, forge links with Church schools on behalf of the diocese.  They are the visible face of the Church in church schools, reminding them of their special ecclesiastical foundation and heritage, supporting the schools in their work and helping them to celebrate their achievements as educators and learners.

Bishop’s Visitors visit their schools at least once a term, but they often attend when schools are celebrating important milestones in the school’s life or a particular achievement on the part of the school or the festivities around, Harvest, Christmas, Easter and end of year celebrations.

Our Bishop’s Visitors also attend the termly meetings of the school’s governing body where their role is that of observer.  Governors and head teachers welcome the presence of the Bishop’s Visitor at such meetings because they are a visible re-assurance of the concern for and interest in the school at a diocesan level. Their presence supports the role of the foundation governors on the governing body, as foundation governors are in a minority in voluntary controlled schools, and further underlines the character of the school as a Church school.

In voluntary aided schools in the diocese, the Diocesan Director of Education and the Deputy Director of Education, if one is in post, undertake the role of the Bishop’s Visitor.

What is a Section 50 Inspection?

The Education (School) Act 1992 introduced a new system of school inspection in England and Wales. This was re-stated in the Schools Inspection Act 1996.  As a result of this legislation, maintained schools in Wales are now inspected every six years by independent teams appointed by Estyn, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training in Wales.

The same legislation made provision for a denominational inspection to be carried out in voluntary aided and voluntary controlled schools and this is now known as a Section 50 inspection.

In voluntary aided schools Section 50 inspections will report on religious education, collective worship, the spiritual, moral, social and cultural education of the children and the school’s ethos.

In voluntary controlled schools Section 50 inspectors will report on collective worship and the school’s ethos and, where requested by the school governors, the moral, spiritual, social and cultural education of the children.

They will only inspect religious education in a voluntary controlled school where parents have requested denominational or trust deed religious education for their children and where, therefore, the school in following the RE Syllabus of the Church in Wales.

Where religious education is conducted in accordance with the agreed syllabus in voluntary controlled schools, the inspection of religious education is conducted by Estyn.

Which local authorities serve the Diocese of St. Davids?

  • Pembrokeshire County Council,  County Hall, Haverfordwest, SA61 1TP. Tel: 01437 764551
  • Carmarthenshire County Council, County Hall, Carmarthen, SA31 1JP.  Tel: 0845 658 0445 / information@carmarthenshire.gov.uk
  • Ceredigion County Council, Neuadd Cyngor Ceredigion, Penmorfa, Aberaeron, Ceredigion SA46 0PA  Tel: 01545 570881 / info@ceredigion.gov.uk

What do the letters a, a/b, b and c mean when they appear in a school’s language category?

Category a: Category a schools are schools in the recognised traditional Welsh areas and designated Welsh schools, streams and units.

In these schools, Welsh will be the main medium of the life and work in nursery and infant phases in order to establish a sound foundation for pupils in the language.

Welsh will also be the main medium of the life and work in the junior phase with English introduced as pupils transfer from the infant to junior phase so that pupils have the opportunity to develop an equal competence in both languages by the time they leave the primary school.

Category b: Category b schools will be found in less Welsh areas and in urban areas

In these schools, Welsh should be used as a medium in the life and work in nursery and infant phase. This will secure a sound foundation for the continued development of the learning of the Welsh language into the junior phase in order to ensure an equal opportunity for both Welsh and English in the life and work of the school.

Category a/b. (mainly Carmarthenshire)
In schools that have Category a and Category b, children are streamed according to language preference and the medium of the life and work in these streams are defined above.

Category c: (Mainly in Pembrokeshire)
English is the main medium of life and work of the school. Every pupil in the school has an opportunity to learn Welsh as a second language.