The Bishop of Sheffield has issued this clarification of the financial issues around Resourcing Ministerial Education.
General Synod begins tomorrow and we are just a day or so away from the initial debate on Resourcing Ministerial Education.
My attention has been drawn to a couple of posts and circulars about RME which attempt to argue that the proposals, if agreed, signal “an end to residential training”.
This is very wide of the mark indeed. I look forward to answering the points raised fully in the Synod debate but it may help Synod members and others to have a few points of clarification in advance.
The RME Report is very clear that we are looking to see a very significant increase in the numbers of ordinands in training and that we see the importance of all current forms of training pathways (including residential training) as part of the mixed economy.
The Report is also very clear that this uplift in the numbers in training cannot be achieved without a significant increase in the total resource allocated (we have worked with a figure of a 50% increase in funding or £10 million per annum to correspond with the potential 50% increase in ordinands).
The overall background to the Report is therefore about growth and confidence in the sector not about erosion. Nor is the RME report about doing more with less resource but about increasing resource commensurate with the number of ordinands.
The anxiety which leads to some predicting (prematurely) the demise of residential training rests on some of the detailed proposals, particularly Proposals 6 and 7.
The Report signals clearly that all of these proposals will be subject to further detailed work and consultation with dioceses and TEI’s in the coming months. General Synod is not being asked to approve these proposals but to approve the general vision and direction of the Report.
Proposal 6 assigns a standard grant to each ordinand and proposes giving the diocese a larger role in decisions about training pathways. At present, the decision about pathways is entirely separate from the consequences in terms of costs. Under the RME proposals the diocese’s decision will be made within a framework in which Bishop’s Guidelines, the options available in training institutions and the candidate’s own vocation and preferences will all have a part. A diocese will be able to invest money not spent on one candidate’s training on another’s training and therefore able to fund candidates on both residential and non-residential pathways (as at present) providing we set the standard grant at the right level. Dioceses will have training budgets which have to be invested in the training of candidates – in others words there will be mitigating factors which will prevent this simply becoming a cost-cutting exercise.
Proposal 7 proposes discontinuing the pooling of maintenance grants for candidates families in training. Please note that we are not proposing discontinuing maintenance grants for families – simply the pooling of these costs (which currently amount to £5 million per annum or 25% of the total pooled IME budget of £20 million). This is a very large investment overall and again, one of the purposes of the proposal is to connect a decision about investment in a candidate’s support with the consequences of that decision. Dioceses will continue to have the discretion to invest the amount they currently invest in candidate support in the support of married students and their families. However dioceses may want to explore with students other means of support for candidates where this is a priority.
There is much still to be determined about how the funding will flow. This will be the subject of further consultation in the coming weeks.
However, we first need to establish through the Synod debates this week whether the General Synod will support the overall vision and acknowledge that additional funding will be needed to make it possible. Only when these prior questions have been answered will it be possible to explore in detail how the arrangements in Proposals 1-12 would work and the effect on institutions.
My own hope would be that as a result of the RME proposals we would see the number of ordinands rise overall and the number of candidates in residential training remain at at least its present level in terms of numbers. I therefore believe that residential training has a secure and long term future as a key part of the mixed economy of training the Church of England offers