Anger over Church-run schools move
The Church of England could be given the power to run thousands of secular state schools in UK under a deal with the Department of Education.
The Church will be forced to preserve the character of non-faith schools and community schools joining a Church of England academy chain would not have to change its admissions policy, religious education lessons or employment terms for teachers, The Times said.
Bishops will also have the power to appoint governors at the schools.
But the move has caused disquiet among secular groups, who said the decision would irreversibly increase religious influence over state schools.
Education Secretary Michael Gove praised the standards and popularity of church schools during a seminar at Lambeth Palace and urged a continuing partnership with the Church.
In a statement Mr Gove said: "We would not have so many great state schools in this country without the Church of England. I know the Church does a wonderful job helping to raise educational standards and in providing a safe and loving environment for hundreds of thousands of children.
"However, there is much more we can do together. I want the Church to recover the spirit which infused its educational mission in Victorian times and support more new schools - especially academies and free schools - to bring educational excellence to the nation's poorest children."
Approximately one million children currently attend Church of England schools. There are 4,484 Church of England primary and middle schools, a quarter of the total, and 193 secondary schools.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, who leads education policy within the Church, believes small village primary schools will want to join academy trusts led by its schools to secure their future, and promised the would be "safe with us", The Times said.
Bishop Pritchard said: "This will be a way for them to have the security of a larger body with mutual support, with resources that are much more extensive." He added: "Dioceses have the privilege and opportunity to put local church and local school into the same box, as it were, and say that's where the mission of the Church lies."