As I sit to write this editorial we are in the midst of Holy Week. The war in Syria, terrorist attacks across Europe and the uncertainty over Brexit are dominating the news. Never have I felt more grateful that, as a Christian community, we can celebrate the life, love, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a timeless truth, a source of unfailing hope and the knowledge of a love for us which we cannot begin to understand.
The constancy of this Good News and our diocese’s new strategy ‘Living the Story, Telling the Story’ of Jesus has taken new meaning for many with whom we work. In an educational world that reflects the turmoil elsewhere, the Church represents a spirit of hope, longevity, universal truth and family which we sense as precious.
The Church of England Vision for Education has struck a common chord with leaders of both church and non-church schools. ‘Deeply Christian and Serving the Common Good’ is something that everyone can grasp in their own way. The four key elements, educating for:
- Hope and aspiration
- Wisdom, knowledge and skills
- Community and living well together
- Dignity and respect
This is a vision with which all feel able to identify, to share, to work together to achieve.
I have been asked to put together a presentation on the role of the Diocese and the Church of England in education. While I will undoubtedly include the statutory aspects around SIAMS, RE, collective worship, admissions, governance, ethos and parish partnership, I will also talk about the role that we have in what is a complex and potentially fragmented world.
This role is still emerging out of all of the multiple drivers that are pressing down on those in education. The permanence, timelessness and hope of the Christian message are at the core of our purpose. Our ability to work for the common good through our interaction with schools and colleges is tangible, an outworking and witness of the love of Christ. At a time when our world could split into competitive or isolated groups, the role of the Diocese is increasingly to provide the common message and vision that can hold disparate groups together.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, whose first visit when he came to Bath & Wells was with leaders in education and parish together, continues to emphasise the importance of unity over uniformity. Many schools are nervous of entering into partnership with others, anxious about being ‘taken over’, of losing their autonomy or their identity. In all healthy relationships, some autonomy must be sacrificed in order for the relationship to flourish. This in no way diminishes the identity of the individual. We are committed to preserving that unique identity of our schools and this can only realistically be achieved through working together.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 12:12, he speaks eloquently of how the body of Christ is made up of many parts but is still one body. This is how we see the church school family.
1 Corinthians 12:18
“As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part! As it is, there are many parts but one body.”
Revd Nigel Genders is the Chief Education Officer for The Church of England Education Office. His call to our schools is for us to develop a culture not of independence, but of interdependence.
As we approach the end of another academic year, and in response to your needs, we are reshaping our department to better serve all those in our church school family and our ever – growing extended family. More details to follow.