Our new Diocesan Director of Education, Alex Tear, sets out his vision for nurturing education in the Diocese of Guildford.
Archbishop Justin Welby recently described the Church’s work in education as “the most important area of the Church’s work in society”. With over one million children attending a Church of England school every day and a quarter of primary schools having a Church of England status, this scale of provision gives a huge opportunity to engage with children, young people and the communities church schools serve, to make a real difference.
In the Diocese of Guildford, 22,000 children and young people attend one of our church schools, participating in a daily act of collective worship and having an understanding and experience of the Christian faith lived out through their church school’s vision, ethos and character. Engaging with students in higher education through our chaplaincy work is also an important part of supporting the journey of young people in discovering and developing their faith.
Our commitment to nurturing the education of children and young people is at centre of our strategy for mission: Transforming Church, Transforming Lives. This means encouraging the flourishing of all those in our care in our church schools, and more widely in other schools in the local communities that we serve.
"Our commitment to nurturing the education of children and young people is at centre of our strategy for mission"
Archbishop Runcie said church schools were set up by Joshua Watson and The National Society over two hundred years ago ‘to nourish those of the faith; encourage those of other faiths and challenge those who have no faith’. Church schools are often described as ‘threshold places’ where families are drawn in and may have their first or only experience of what it means to be part of a Christian community and encounter with the Christian faith. Encouraging teachers and church school leaders to view their leadership roles as a vocational ministry and part of the wider mission of the diocese, is an important part of the developing the spiritual growth of Christian people who work in education.
Over the last ten years the educational landscape has changed dramatically. There is no longer one national education system, rather we have a ‘system of systems’ and the dioceses, through our church schools are part of that diversity of educational provision. Accountability for school performance is much sharper than ever, and the role and responsibilities for our leaders and governors are much more demanding.
"The challenge is to continue to maintain and promote all that makes our church schools distinctive"
We need to remind ourselves that our church schools are not ‘faith schools for the faithful, but church schools for the communities we serve’, and our commitment to education is based on our desire to serve the common good of our nation. The introduction of the academies programme has meant that the historical agreement to provide church schools is being supplemented by an increasing number of schools joining Multi-Academy Trusts. These provide new opportunities for establishing new Church of England schools (Free Schools) in areas of population growth and housing developments across the diocese.
The challenge is to continue to maintain and promote all that makes our church schools distinctive, while at the same time continuing to ensure we deliver the very best educational outcomes for every child and young person in our care. I look forward to working with all those involved in education in our diocese: the Diocesan Board of Education and our Education team, the children and young people who we serve, headteachers, teachers and schools staff, clergy and the many people who give up their time to support our work through serving as a governor or volunteer.