06 February 2008

Lent begins today (Love Life Live Lent please note!)


For some peculiar reason best known to themselves the good people behind LLLL started Lent on Sunday (not sure if it ignorance or convenience) but it has left some of our 50 or so youngsters confused because they only got the book yesterday ready for today.

It hard to explain why Lent is forty days etc when the main LLLL resource assumes that Lent starts three days earlier - something to be corrected for next years pack.

At least two of the adults in the parish have kept to the adult script ( say sorry to someone) by apologizing to me for past offences which I had in both cases forgotten about so it was easy to forgive them.

At the after school club last night one of the participants looked through the suggested activities and said they were "too easy" - there is something remarkably stimulating about the innocent enthusiasm of the 7/8 year olds.

20 November 2007

Church Schools

Simon Barrow and Jonathan Bartley from Ekklesia are beginning to tread onto the hallowed turf of Church of England Church Schools and to ask some serious questions from a Christian perspective about their appropriateness and success.

This makes a pleasant change from the normally shrill  and frequently ill-informed criticisms of the small group of left-wing secularists who normally provide the only sustained critique- but they join a growing list of other groups within society prepared to ask questions.

The Church of England recently commissioned some independent research into the people's attitudes to Church schools which it has been widely spun as being "Church schools given top marks by people of all faiths" while quietly ignoring some very awkward results to other questions.

At the very least, it is clear that the Church has a continuing task to explain why it should enjoy the numerous advantages reserved for its schools and those of the Roman Catholic Church.

Internally and theologically there are questions to be asked about the motives and reasons for putting so much energy into Church schools - and whether in the mission of the Church they will deliver what some people are claiming for them.

At the very least we need a more developed understanding than simply that they are a good thing - or that they are right because they are popular. They are popular for reasons which may have nothing to do with the gospel.

In the current system it is plainly every parent's role to do the best for their child - but a Christian Church has other more widely seated values which cannot simply respond to these desires.

The "Christian Questions" ought to be about (for example) whether Church schools (severally across the nation and individually in each community) promote a real opportunity for young people to freely explore and discover faith, and whether they contribute to a more just education system and society.

The Church's own survey results would cause one to ask for more detail and further consideration about whether these and other aims are being achieved.

Missiologically are we endeavoring to sustain a Christendom model of church and society, or would our considerable resources and energies in education be put to better use (for example) in specialist roles such as ensuring that all children could read by the end of primary school - such an objective would honour those who founded many of the Church primary schools around the country with the focus on children most in need - and perhaps provide a more focused post-Christendom Kingdom model of education.

I write this very aware that I have personally benefited from the very same church schools but with increasing concern about that the conditions and contribution have changed since then.

Read Simon's latest article here in the Guardian and Jonathan's wider assessment here.

09 November 2007

Educational bureaucrats lose

Today I have read a really Good News story for Samuel (on the left) which I have been following on the Moot blog.

Read an introduction here which is Samuel's dad Jonathan ( on the right above)writing in The Daily Telegraph

and then the outcome here

At a personal level for the family it is a triumph - but it also highlights some real issues in our education system:

1. How come the Church's education system can get so caught up in these procedures - it reflects so badly especially on the local Diocese and the Board of Education that a Christian family with a clear commitment to the school has to resort to the secular law to gain justice.

2. It is really scary that even with all the parental resources available to Samuel's parents, (including Jonathan who is one of the Church's most experienced and informed lobbyists and journalists see) it is soooo hard to get through the systems, so hard to counter the superficial and ill-informed opinions of the experts who rule on things like wheelchair space and health and safety, and that such decisions such cloud personal relationships between schools and parents.

3. Why is it that the policy of "inclusion" works to exclude children like Samuel (who with good-will, good resources and support clearly can be included) while at the same time on other occasions determines that children who desperately need special provision (and have no real chance of being part of the mainstream) are denied special education provision.

4. Where are going with real education for children according to their abilities when it can take so long to get an agreed statement of needs in my LEA that a child is already into secondary education?

But today at least in these complex and important issues of justice in education it is time to celebrate . . .

10 October 2006

University Fees

For family reasons attention is beginning to focus on funding University places

What galls me is how negatively it is presented by the universities and even more in the press. For sure it is a major step to be charging £3,000 a year for a course - but headlines like "students leave university with debts of £20,000" don't really help the process or encourage the extra students from what the government calls " non traditional" backgrounds to consider it.

By contrast if I said to a young person

" I will loan you £3,000 for the next three years at no interest so you can do something your really want to do, and you wouldn't have to start paying me back for 3.5 years and until you were earning £15,000, and then to a maximum of 9% per year ( which  means £5 per week if they were earning £18,000) and even more I would arrange with the tax people so that it would be paid automatically so you wouldn't notice anyway, and that if after 25 years you had not paid it off then just forget about the rest"

do you know a young person who would not accept it?