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BHA: pastoral support in schools must not be hijacked by the Church

In an interview with the TES magazine last week, the Church of England’s chief education officer, Nigel Genders, stated that all schools, including non-church schools, would benefit from employing a chaplain as part of their pastoral support provision. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which provides a network of accredited non-religious pastoral carers in hospitals, hospices, prisons, and the armed forces, has also emphasised the importance of pastoral support in schools, but expressed concern about the nature of Nigel Genders’ proposals.

BHA Director of Community Services Teddy Prout commented, ‘If pastoral support is to be effective it must be appropriate to a person’s religion or belief. And whilst religious chaplains would argue they can support non-religious people, the evidence suggests that service users do not agree that they can be supported if the pastoral carer or chaplain is not like-minded. Anglicans constitute a minority of the intake in almost all non-church schools, and so I would hope that the Church would recognise this before embarking on any strategy to increase the number of chaplains in schools.’

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman added, ‘The Church of England need to be very clear about what it is proposing here. Around three-quarters of young people in this country are not religious, and if state money ends up being used to fund Anglican chaplains in non-church schools, that would evidently not be appropriate.  

‘If this is just another attempt by the Church to use state funds to smuggle Christianity into non-church schools and, under the guise of pastoral support provision, gain a fresh means of evangelising children, that cannot be allowed to happen. “Faith” schools already make up a third of all state-funded schools in England, and even schools with no religious character are legally obliged to hold daily Christian worship. Ours is an education system that is currently extremely problematic for the majority of the population that is non-religious, so any attempt to extend religious influence within it must be opposed.’


For further comment or information please contact BHA Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on 0207 324 3078 or

Read more about the BHA’s work on chaplaincy and pastoral support:

Read more about the BHA’s provision of non-religious pastoral support:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.


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